cover image Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzo Kaneko

Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzo Kaneko

Misuzu Kaneko, edited and trans. from the Japanese by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi, illus. by Toshikado Hajiri. Chin Music (Consortium, dist.), $19.50 (64p) ISBN 978-1-63405-962-6

The work of Japanese children’s poet Misuzu (1903–1930) was nearly forgotten until a contemporary writer unearthed her poems; one of them, “Are You an Echo?,” brought renewed attention to the poet when it was broadcast after the 2011 tsunami. Ito and Tsuboi render Misuzu’s plainspoken poems into graceful English (“The fish in the sea—/ no one looks after them;/ they do no harm./ And yet, here I am about to eat one”) and Jacobson provides the tragic biography of an artist whose life blazed and ended early. Misuzu finished high school in an age when most women had little formal schooling and started writing soon after. Children’s magazines clamored to publish her work, but she suffered in a dreadful marriage and committed suicide at 27, leaving her young daughter in the care of her mother. Hajiri’s warmhearted illustrations of turn-of-the-century Japanese life recall the work of Allan Say; they dwell on the closeness between Misuzu, her mother, and her daughter. The poems, several printed in both English and Japanese, are aimed at very young readers, but the biography is not; guidance from teachers or parents will likely be needed. Ages 9–14. (Sept.)