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Second Annual “Animal’s Feelings Poetry” Event with Omuta City Zoo

Updated: Mar 25

Report from Omuta City Ambassador, Michiyama Tomoyuki


Note: winning poems appear in English translation at the end of this article.


At my hometown zoo,

instead of drawing animals,

We put the animals’ feelings into words

through poetry that we write

and then read in front of everyone.

And everyone listens together.


It brought me great pleasure to see that simple premise be brought to life for the second time in fall of 2019. This second annual event also served to cheer on the new film, Life Sketch, which was partially filmed on location at the Omuta City Zoo. The film ran in theaters for five-months during fall of 2019, and featured Hayashida Mari (recipient of the Kinokuniya Drama Award), also an Omuta City native, and who was present at the poetry event to award her Actress’s Prize. Along with zoo staff, we composed poems and presented them in front of the giraffe area, where the Actress’s Prize was awarded to the most performative reading.


The first year we did the event, the two giraffes, Rin and Purin, gallivanted gleefully in the background during the reading. Would they perhaps show equal excitement for another round of poetry…

Photos courtesy of Omuta City Zoo


Poet Jordan A.Y. Smith, who participated as a judge last year was scheduled to participate as well, but just as he was scheduled to fly, a large typhoon was heading direct for Chiba where it inflicted major damage, so he had to cancel his trip in order to stay in the area to make sure local foreign students would be okay in the aftermath. Instead, Jordan participated by phone for an open mic session, uniting Chiba and all the children who participated. Jordan expressed how much he wished he could be there with them, and the children hollered their encouragement in unison, “Take good care!” It was a lovely, emotional movement amidst the powerful winds. I think the children could sense the care taken with his tough decision to be there for his local community. Jordan requested that his “Poet’s Prize” be awarded to a poem that made people laugh, and using that criterion, the other poets, actress, and zoo staff Shiihara Shunichi and Tomisawa Kanako made the award selection.


And thankfully, this second year’s event was overflowing with participants. Students from local elementary and middle schools, along with dozens of parents and guardians, and other spectators who came to watch just for fun––it was a well-attended and merry gathering. The typhoon brought heavy winds that whipped the papers out of a few hands as the young poets read, but undaunted, the children’s powerful poems came to life in their voices, producing a rare and special moment in poetic space-time. Under the bright sun, it all felt to me like a particularly momentous event.


The main purpose was to feel the combination of emotions, language, and voices.

To consider with compassion the feelings of animals.

To consider with compassion the circumstances of those affected by the typhoon.

To consider with compassion the thoughts of Jordan, who’d stayed behind in Chiba to be of help as needed.

We believe that children who cultivate a perspective like that can bring all the more kindness and warmth to the world through their rich language and loving hearts.


We hope this event will evolve from a local affair originating in Omuta City to something that can be enjoyed around the world.

☆ Omuta City Zoo homepage:

http://www.omutazoo.org/


Winning Entries


Special Prize

Winner: Arai Mimori

1st Grade, Omuta Chuo Elementary School

Title: Just One Good Thing


Rin and Purin Poetry Prize

Winner: Abe Maiko

4th Grade, Tenryo Elementary School

Title: Every Day for Me


Michiyama Rain Poet’s Prize

Winner: Abe Hanako

4th Grade, Tenryo Elementary School

Title: I Love Mealtime


Jordan Smith Poet’s Prize

Winner: Ueno Amane

6th Grade, Hayame Elementary School

Title: Giraffe Wants Bento


Actress Poetry Prize

Winner: Tsuruta Mizuki

3rd Grade, Miyanohara Junior High School

Title: Kangaruminations


Zoo Director’s Poetry Prize

Winner: Ochi Kaito

4th grade, Hayamadai Elementary School

Title: These Human Questions


Winning Poems


Special Prize

Arai Mimori

1st Grade, Omuta Chuo Elementary School

Title: Just One Good Thing (Lion)


So broad, so fun,

Such delicious air to breathe.

Brought from the beautiful jungle,

to the small cage where I live now.

I used to run full speed,

to leap around

climbing trees,

but now here I am

in this tiny space.

But there is

just one good thing.

And that is

I’ve been given a name!

I’m so happy

they gave me a name.

When the zookeepers call my name

I get even happier.

When visitors call my name,

I get happier and even happier!



Rin and Purin Poetry Prize

Winner: Abe Maiko

4th Grade, Tenryo Elementary School

Title: Every Day for Me (Sloth)


I am a sloth.

Someone has come into my area.

Why do people have so much free time?

I’m always busy.

Food to eat. Hair to brush and naps to take.

Food to eat. Hair to brush and more naps to take.

Every day, tons to do.

Why does the squirrel monkey who lives across from me

Move around so much?

Just for food.

Don’ freak out like that just for some food.

Oh, here comes the zookeeper.

Carrying along some food.

Alright, time to hurry up before the squirrel monkey takes it all.

Moving right along here, yes I am.

Whew. Day in, day out, I’m just so busy.



Michiyama Rain Poet’s Prize

Winner: Abe Hanako

4th Grade, Tenryo Elementary School

Title: I Love Mealtime (Pig)


I am a pig.

Everyone says I’m fat.

Actually I’m not fat oink

oink oink oink

I am a pig.

But “oink” isn’t all I say oink.

Bu-heeee, bu-heeee, bu-heeee

My brothers and sisters just came over oink

And they brought dinner with them oink

I’m pretty classy, but even I dive in like

Nom-nom-nom-nom-munch-munch-munch-munch

Every day I eat too much oink

Gotta admit it—I just love mealtime.



Jordan Smith Poet’s Prize

Winner: Ueno Amane

6th Grade, Hayame Elementary School

Title: Giraffe Wants Bento (Giraffe)



Actress Poetry Prize

Tsuruta Mizuki

3rd Grade, Miyanohara Junior High School

Title: Kangaruminations (Kangaroo)


I’m a kangaroo.

Today too I roominate.

I can fit anything in my pocket.

In no time, there’s so much stuff inside.

Secretly, I’ve been picking up the things visitors drop.

But losing things is tough for me too sometimes.

Yesterday, from my North Pole friend the polar bear,

I received a snowman––so lovely,

and somehow warm.

So I put it in my tummy pouch and went to sleep.

But when morning came, it was all gone!

Where oh where did it go…?

I am a kangaroo.

And today, I am roominating on the thief who stole it.



Zoo Director’s Poetry Prize

Winner: Ochi Kaito

4th grade, Hayamadai Elementary School

Title: These Human Questions


My hobby is loafing around. I’m always loafing around.

Humans are always facing me and making clicking sounds.

Whenever that happens, I fix my eyes on their devices.

What are these devices? Are they devices for observing me?

I stand up. I jump.

The humans get excited.

How can he jump so high?

The humans ask. I reply:

By jumping with all four of my legs and my fat tail!

But they show no reaction.

Then seconds later, the humans exclaim––

Oh, now I see!

They must be looking at the placard that introduces me.

Tokyo Poetry Journal

topojo2015@gmail.com

Tokyo Poetry Journal
c/o Jeffrey Johnson
English Department, Daito Bunka University
Iwadono 560 Higashimatsuyama-shi
Saitama-ken 355-8501 Japan

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Copyright Tokyo Poetry Journal 2020. All artwork and poetry copyrights remain with authors and artists.