Four Japanese Poems for Peace
journal contributionposted on 22.05.2017, 03:01 by Sue Stanford, Hayashi Sachiko, Toge Sankichi, Ibraragi Noriko
1. The Skies of Hiroshima (Hayashi Sachiko)
2. Call to Action (Toge Sankichi)
3. When I was at my Prettiest (Ibraragi Noriko)
4. June (Ibaragi Noriko)
The translation of these poems was prompted my friend Hideko Nakamura, Melbourne based activist and founding member of Japanese for Peace. Hideko-san felt some Japanese poetry written in response to World War II would make an impact on Australian audiences at peace events. It was she who chose the poems.
Atrocity literature provokes. It oppresses us with moral problems. Some of these call the genre itself into question. Does atrocity literature subtly legitimize what it commemorates? Does it suggest hope where no hope is possible? Do events with the deadliest impact on populations so transcend subjective experience that individual expression must reduce and betray their meaning? Do infinitely accessible, infinitely repeatable, texts lull and corrupt? Alternatively, what damage might they do to readers or listeners who imaginatively engage with them?
Should the voices of witnesses be allowed to fade?
The three writers represented here addressed themselves to their own world and beyond that to a future – the contingent nature of which they would have been more than usually attuned. Briefly, we are that future. It is time for us to listen.
Only the first two of these four poems fall into the category of atrocity literature. The latter two call for peace in other ways.