– translation by Peter Robinson & Andrew Houwen
was the Meiji era’s terrible translation.
was the Meiji era’s brilliant one.
My major was chemistry
but how each element changes form,
that, and why, I never understood —
at a loss,
a change of direction,
from the poetry speech-radical to temple*
would lose my way
The changing forms of words, thirty years,
it’s not as if I’ve come that far
putting in palaver and shaking the flask,
measuring the weight, mistaking
what catalyst is best used to make speech-parts react and dance?
Mind absorbed for thirty years
still not able to show
a single equation for poetry...
from Sunshi (“With Thanks”), 1982
* The Chinese character used in Japanese for ‘poetry’, 詩,
consists of the radical 言 (‘speech’) and, on the right, 寺 (‘temple’).