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Misuzu Kaneko (金子 みすゞ, Kaneko Misuzu, April 11, 1903 – March 10, 1930) was a Japanese poet and songwriter. She was born Teru Kaneko (金子 テル, Kaneko Teru) in Senzaki-mura, now part of Nagato, Yamaguchi prefecture.

Misuzu Kaneko
Kaneko Misuzu.jpg
Native name金子 みすゞ
BornTeru Kaneko
(1903-04-11)April 11, 1903
Nagato, Yamaguchi, Japan
DiedMarch 10, 1930(1930-03-10) (aged 26)
Senzaki, Yamaguchi, Japan
OccupationPoetry, songwriter

Senzaki was a fishing village, relying particularly on catches of Japanese sardine. Scenes of fishing and the sea often make appearances in her poems.

Kaneko has been compared to Christina Rossetti.[1] Her poems have been translated into eleven languages.[2]

Contents

BiographyEdit

Misuzu Kaneko's career as a writer of poetry for children began in earnest at the age of twenty, shortly after she became the manager and sole employee of a small bookstore in Shimonoseki, a town at the southern tip of Honshu.

Kaneko was raised singlehandedly by her mother after her father died when she was three. Kaneko's mother ran a bookstore and felt strongly about reading and education. While most Japanese girls of that time period were only educated up to sixth grade, Kaneko continued her schooling until the age of seventeen. She was described by others as gentle, cheerful, and an excellent student[3] as well as a voracious reader with strong curiosity about nature.

At the bookstore Kaneko discovered a clutch of magazines which were riding the crest of a boom in children's literature and which solicited stories and verse from their readers. Kaneko sent in a number of poems, five of which, among them "The Fishes", were accepted for publication in the September 1923 issue of four of these magazines.[4] Soon, her poems began appearing in magazines all over the country and she became a literary celebrity. Over the next five years she published fifty-one more verses.

Kaneko's private life was not as fortunate, however. Her husband, a clerk in her family bookstore, was unfaithful and contracted a venereal disease from the pleasure quarters, which he passed on to her, and which caused her lifelong physical pain. He also forced her to stop writing. She finally divorced him but also lost custody of her little girl to her husband. Japanese law at the time automatically granted the father indisputable custody to the child. Kaneko sank into further despair.

Kaneko committed suicide in 1930, shortly before her 27th birthday. After bathing her daughter and sharing a sakuramochi, Kaneko wrote a letter to her husband asking that he let her mother raise the girl, and took her own life. Her daughter was ultimately raised by the grandmother.[5]

Rediscovery of Kaneko's poemsEdit

Although she received praise for her published poems during her life, Kaneko's work descended into obscurity during the years of World War II[6] In 1966 a 19-year-old Japanese aspiring poet named Setsuo Yazaki discovered her poem "Big Catch" in an obscure book. Eager to know more about the author, he spent sixteen years trying to track her down. In 1982 he was able to get in touch with Kaneko’s 77-year-old younger brother, who still had the diaries in which she wrote her poems.[7]

The entire collection has since been published by JULA Publishing Bureau in a six-volume anthology, and in 2016, an English-language edition of her poetry Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko was released by the independent book publisher Chin Music Press. It received an Honorable Mention in the Freeman Awards 2016.

"Are You an Echo?" and the 2011 tsunamiEdit

After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, television stations played Kaneko's poem “Are You an Echo?” as a public service announcement in order to encourage volunteers.[8]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Misuzu Kaneko". Access: A Bimonthly Newsletter for International Residents of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Oct–Nov 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  2. ^ Gross, Annise (2016). "Chin Music Press Translates Japanese Children's Poet for US Market,", Publishers Weekly
  3. ^ "Misuzu Kaneko". Access: A Bimonthly Newsletter for International Residents of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Oct–Nov 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  4. ^ Ito, Sally (2016). "Forgotten Woman: the Life of Misuzu Kaneko,", Electric Literature
  5. ^ Popova, Maria. "Are You An Echo: The Remarkable Story of the Forgotten Young Woman Who Became Japan's Most Beloved Children's Poet". Brain Pickings. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Misuzu Kaneko". Access: A Bimonthly Newsletter for International Residents of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Oct–Nov 2007. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  7. ^ Popova, Maria. "Are You An Echo: The Remarkable Story of the Forgotten Young Woman Who Became Japan's Most Beloved Children's Poet". Brain Pickings. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  8. ^ Popova, Maria. "Are You An Echo: The Remarkable Story of the Forgotten Young Woman Who Became Japan's Most Beloved Children's Poet". Brain Pickings. Retrieved 20 March 2017.

External linksEdit