The poem below, which appears with two others on Asymptote journal's website, displays the quintessence of Hagiwara's work: its use of free verse, rather than traditional Japanese forms (which he also employed during his career); its mixture of linguistic registers, including lofty poetic speech, everyday language, and philosophical discourse; and oscillation between pedestrian and psychologically dark imagery. Several previous volumes of his work, including Howling at the Moon and Blue (Green Integer, 2001), translated by Hiraoki Sato, and Rat's Nest: The Poetry of Hagiwara Sakutaro (UNESCO, 1999), translated by Robert Epp, have previously appeared, as has Hagiwara's Principles of Poetry: Shi No Genri, from Cornell University Press in 1998.
The Tiger It's a tiger wide and vague as a giant statue you sleep in a cage in the uppermost floor of a department store you are born no machine you may tear apart and eat meat with your fang-teeth but how can you know human reasoning? Behold, under the orb sooty smoke flows from the roofs of a factory-zone town sad whistles rise and spread. It's a tiger It's a tiger It's an afternoon the ad-balloon rises high in twilight-close city sky on this high-rise building sitting in the distance you are as hungry as a flag. When you scan vaguely you make the worms crawling along the streets your live food dark and depressing. It's a tiger on the roof of prosperity in the midst of Tokyo City where elevators go up and down wearing an amber striped fur you suffer solitude like a wasteland. It's a tiger! Ah it's all your afterimage a useless total view of a void. Copyright © Hagiwara Sukitaro, translated by Hiraoki Sato,from The Iceland,
New Directions Publishing Corporation, June 2014.
This poem appears on the website of Asymptote Journal. All rights reserved.