2016 Lucien Stryk Shortlist: The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa, trans. by Sawako Nakayasu

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawasagawacoverspd
By Chika Sagawa
Translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu
(Canarium Books)

Sagawa Chika is hardly a household name in Japan, yet she was an important member of the prewar Modernist movement in Japan, intimately connected to some of the biggest names in Japanese literature at the time, and in many ways was far more groundbreaking than the men around her.  In Sawako Nakayasu she has found a translator more than equipped to bring her poems into English for the first time.

In the opening of “Rusty Knife,” as in other poems, the natural world intrudes on the objects of everyday, urban life, and the words jangle against one another like so many items in a small room, in rich clusters of bilabials, liquids and velar rhymes and half-rhymes:

Pale blue dusk scales the window.
A lamp dangles from the sky like the neck of a woman.
Murky dark air permeates the room – spreads out a single blanket.
The books, ink, and rusty knife seem to be gradually stealing the life out of me.

We hope that this translation will bring Sagawa Chika new readerships in English and perhaps even Japanese as well. 

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