Shuntaro Tanikawa - A Poet's Japan

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2020051020200516 (R4)A rare encounter with Japan's greatest living poet.
20200510Shuntaro Tanikawa is Japan’s most widely read and acclaimed poet and has been called one of the world’s ‘active poetic volcanoes’. Now aged 88, he continues to be at the cutting edge of modern poetry in Japan, where he has remained ever since his first collection, Two Billion Light-Years of Solitude, was published in 1952.

In the book's prefatory poem, Tanikawa's mentor, Tatsuji Miyoshi, introduced him as a young man who 'has come from a distant land, unexpected … bearing the weight of being alone'. Today, he compares his age to tree rings: ‘No matter how old I grow, the younger me still exists in the centre ring.'

Over the years he has shifted his focus from the cosmos and the nature of being, to the pathos of everyday life, to his subconscious desire for silence. And his poetic voice remains as exhilarating as ever.

Tanikawa invites us into his world, and talks about his life and work in the company of his friend and translator since 1967, William Elliott, an American poet who has lived in Japan for more than 40 years, and his more recent translators Nishihara Katsumasa and Takako Lento.

Along the way, we peer into the soul of modern Japan and reflect on nearly 90 years of its history.

Readings from Shuntaro Tanikawa: New Selected Poems, published by Carcanet Press; The Art of Being Alone, published by Cornell East Asia Series. Featuring music by Kensaku Tanikawa, Toru Takemitsu and Ryuichi Sakamoto, with lyrics by Shuntaro Tanikawa.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Greenpoint production for BBC Radio 4

A rare encounter with Japan's greatest living poet.

2020051020200516 (R4)Shuntaro Tanikawa is Japan’s most widely read and acclaimed poet and has been called one of the world’s ‘active poetic volcanoes’. Now aged 88, he continues to be at the cutting edge of modern poetry in Japan, where he has remained ever since his first collection, Two Billion Light-Years of Solitude, was published in 1952.

In the book's prefatory poem, Tanikawa's mentor, Tatsuji Miyoshi, introduced him as a young man who 'has come from a distant land, unexpected … bearing the weight of being alone'. Today, he compares his age to tree rings: ‘No matter how old I grow, the younger me still exists in the centre ring.'

Over the years he has shifted his focus from the cosmos and the nature of being, to the pathos of everyday life, to his subconscious desire for silence. And his poetic voice remains as exhilarating as ever.

Tanikawa invites us into his world, and talks about his life and work in the company of his friend and translator since 1967, William Elliott, an American poet who has lived in Japan for more than 40 years, and his more recent translators Nishihara Katsumasa and Takako Lento.

Along the way, we peer into the soul of modern Japan and reflect on nearly 90 years of its history.

Readings from Shuntaro Tanikawa: New Selected Poems, published by Carcanet Press; The Art of Being Alone, published by Cornell East Asia Series. Featuring music by Kensaku Tanikawa, Toru Takemitsu and Ryuichi Sakamoto, with lyrics by Shuntaro Tanikawa.

Producer: Eve Streeter
A Greenpoint production for BBC Radio 4

A rare encounter with Japan's greatest living poet.