River of Stars: Selected Poems of Yosano Akiko

River of Stars: Selected Poems of Yosano Akiko

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River of Stars: Selected Poems of Yosano Akiko by Yosano Akiko, Stephen Addiss

Yosano Akiko (1878–1942) is one of the most famous Japanese writers of the twentieth century. She is the author of more than seventy-five books, including twenty volumes of original poetry and the definitive translation into modern Japanese of the Tale of the Genji. Although probably best known for her exquisite erotic poetry, Akiko's work also championed the causes of feminism, pacifism, and social reform. Akiko's poetry is profoundly direct, often passionate, exposing the complexity of everyday emotions in poetic language stripped of artifice and presenting the full breadth of her poetic vision. Included are ninety-one of Akiko's tanka (a traditional five-line form of verse) and a dozen of her longer poems written in the modern style.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780834829336
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 03/18/1997
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Sam Hamill has translated more than two dozen books from ancient Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Latin, and Estonian. He has published fourteen volumes of original poetry. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Mellon Fund. He was awarded the Decoración de la Universidad de Carabobo in Venezuela, the Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry from Washington Poets Association, and the PEN American Freedom to Write Award. He cofounded and served as Editor at Copper Canyon Press for thirty-two years and is the Director of Poets Against War.

Read an Excerpt


The river of stars

begins to part high

in the Milky Way while

through the curtains of our bed,

lie awake and watch


Immersed in my hot

bath like a lovely lily

growing in a spring,

my twenty-year-old body—

so beautiful, so sublime.

Fresh from my hot bath,

dressed slowly before

the tall mirror,

a smile for my own body.

Innocence so long ago!

Wet with spring rain,

my lover finally comes

to my poor house

like a woman in love

under trees of pink blossoms.

I open

the door to eternal

the flowers

of my breasts cupped,

offered with both my hands.

Following his bath,

gave my handsome lover

my best purple robe

to protect him from the cold.

He blushed, and was beautiful.

whisper, "Good night,"

slipping silently from his room

in the spring evening,

and pause at his kimono,

and try it on for size.

The handsome boatman,

floating the river,

fills me with longing—

he's thrilled just remembering

last night's port-of-call girl.

So all alone

beside the temple bell:

stole away

to secretly meet you here.

But now the fog has cleared.

By a nameless stream,

small and very beautiful,

last night spent alone—

these broad, desolate fields

in the harsh summer dawn.


picturesque across Gion:

cherry blossoms in

these passing faces,

every one so beautiful!

Sutras grow bitter

on this long spring evening.

Deep within the shrine,

twenty-five bodhisattvas,

please accept my humble song.

You've never explored

this tender flesh or known

such stormy blood.

Do you not grow lonely, friend,

forever preaching the Way?

He does not return.

Spring evening slowly descends.

Only this empty heart

falling over my koto,

strands of my disheveled hair.

Raindrops continue

to fall on white lotus leaves.

While my lover paints,

open the umbrella

on his little boat.

Among the new leaves

of all these budding trees,

see everywhere

your smiling friendly face,

my beloved Buddha.

man, like a twig

of the blossoming wild plum,

is sufficient:

it's temporary, and

temporary our parting.

Standing beside him

at his poor mother's grave,

we place the anise sprig

upon her tomb. And I weep

the tears of a common-law wife.

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