April is a poetry month in the US, and perhaps in other parts of the world. For some, I am sure, every month is a poetry month, if not, everyday.
I thought to share few of my favorite poets throughout this month, for lack of anything creative on my part – actually, I have been trying my hand at poetry so if there’s any worth putting in print, I may even be brave enough… but I prefer to just translate what’s put out by Japanese poets already famous and … not – some well-known; some unknown.
When I was the prettiest (when I was most beautiful)
My head was empty and
My heart was jaded, so hardened
My hands and feet shone bright chestnut color
When I was the prettiest
My country lost the war
Defeat? How rediculous could it be
Rolling up my sleeves I took heavy strides through the obsequious town
(translated by K. Tsuyama)From Ibaragi Noriko Poetry Collection
When I was the prettiest
It’s not easy to translate a poem. Thus, I suggest learning Japanese and reading it the original BUT here it is … a poem, so well known, in Japanse school textbooks, teaching todays students about war and peace. I was lucky to grow up in peacetime but now … with the Ukranian situation, none of us in this world could feel at peace.
This poem is probably what my mother had experienced when she too felt her youthful beauty was at her peak. (my mother used repeatedly mention when she was young and most beautiful, there were no handsome young men around her to date as they all died in the war and thus, she would joke, she ended up with my father, hahaha?! Yet sometimes this joke is flipped and she would say that she was the luckiest girl to even find a guy to marry as there were so few elibible young men those days – the ratio was so against the pretty young girls… men does not return from battlefields and so my father was a very lucky rare find indeed.)
We all have those feelings of reminiscing our younger days – when we were bolder fearless adventurous spontaneous effervescent maybe carefree and … yes, most beautiful. We radiated vibrancy … energy! Where did all that go?
The author/poet is conveying the sense of “missing out” on her best times of her life. When her beauty was at her peak (I realize we’d like to think a woman is beautiful at any age but … there’s something about age 16- 20’s where we do have youth and nature on our sides), she had a miserable time desperate in war-torn country in shambles. When one is at the best times of their lives, most beautiful, she experianced the ravages of war torn country and defeat. It surely was a very tough, gut wrenching time where young men did not come back from battlefields and beautiful young women were left in the rubbles … as she says, rolling up their sleeves, getting to work to frantically rebuilt the shambles.
I acutally like her other poems more BUT I thought to shine a light on this famous poem as it feels like we have not learned from our history. Violence, destruction from wars are intolerable. Why can’t men communicate, negotiate and settle matters with pens not swords. Diplomacy diplomacy diplomacy over violence to settle matters because what’s won with violence is never a true victory.