9. 24. 2023

“Inspiring Words”
& “Scallion Flowers”

Shibuya Teisuke

Translated by Adam Kuplowsky

Inspiring Words

“Fuck the police! Pay them no mind!”
I can still recall those inspiring words
spoken from the lips of Ms. S—
…and those shining eyes!
…and that passionate voice!
“Fuck the police! Pay them no mind!”

A March night at the village shrine
A festival underway; cherry-blossoms in bloom
I was carrying hundreds of leaflets
to distribute
to all of my comrades

Scallion Flowers

Everything     Everything
is jumbled up inside me!
Harried by fieldwork and silkworms
I am utterly deprived
of even the little time left
after my evening chores

Radish flowers after midnight
Scallion flowers in the moonlight—
How I envy your freedom!

Not knowing what to do next
I wander exhausted
like a sleepwalker in the garden

Shibuya Teisuke (1905-1989): Japanese poet, farmer, and activist. In 1926, he published his first and only collection of poetry, 野良に叫ぶ (Shouting in the Fields), which he dedicated to the memory of the Ukrainian serf-poet Taras Shevchenko. Despite his enormous impact on Japan’s rural poetry movement, he abruptly withdrew from Japan’s literary scene to commit himself fully to socialist and farmers’ rights causes.

Adam Kuplowsky is a translator based in Toronto. He recently translated the anarchist tales and fables of Vasily Eroshenko from Japanese and Esperanto for Columbia University Press (The Narrow Cage and Other Modern Fairy Tales, 2023).

The poems above are published with the kind permission of Fujimi City Library (Saitama, Japan), which holds the rights to Shibuya Teisuke’s works.