Kazuko Shiraishi

A Japanese poet born in Vancouver in 1931, Shiraishi’s family moved to Japan shortly before the war. As a teenager, she was involved in the surrealist VOU group, and later became known as Japan’s leading Beat poet, reading her poems to jazz, and championing artistic, spiritual, and sexual expression. New Directions published Seasons of Sacred Lust, edited by Kenneth Rexroth, in 1975; Let Those Who Appear in 2002; and My Floating Mother, City in 2009.

Sea, Land, Shadow

by Kazuko Shiraishi

Translated from the Japanese by Yumiko Tsumura

Sea, Land, Shadow, Kazuko Shiraishi’s fourth collection with New Directions, contains work written from 1951 to 2015. Shiraishi, described by Donald Keene as “the outstanding poetic voice of her generation of disengagement in Japan,” sees the world in a grain of rice and finds poetry in a mountain-road traffic jam. In the haunting title poem, she visits Iwanuma not long after the disastrous tsunami in 2011 and finds “no houses but a place where houses had been.…
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My Floating Mother, City

This exciting new collection, My Floating Mother, City, contains poems from Kazuko Shiraishi’s most recent books published in Japan, including The Running of the Full Moon (2004) and My Floating Mother, City (2003), which received the Bansui Poetry Award and a Cultural Award from the Emperor of Japan. Three amazing long sequences, including “Sendai Metro, Greece Street,” are here translated into English for the first time.
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Let Those Who Appear

Over twenty-five years ago New Directions, at the urging of Kenneth Rexroth, published Seasons of Sacred Lust, a selection of poems by a young Japanese writer, Kazuko Shiraishi. The book toured around the world, accompanying Ms. Shiraishi to almost any country one can think of as she gave readings and participated in various poetry events. By now however, Seasons is but a prelude to Shiraishi’s greater accomplishments. It has been followed by more than fifteen new collections in Japan and, moving beyond her early Beat-related work, her poetry has developed an impressive range and depth.…
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Seasons Of Sacred Lust

Seasons of Sacred Lust is Kazuko Shiraishi’s challenge to the conventions of Japanese erotic poetry. Born in Vancouver, Canada, Shiraishi was taken to Japan by her family just prior to World War II, and her first poetry (written at age seventeen, published at twenty) emerged from the violence and ugliness of postwar Tokyo. Her earliest work, associated with the avant-garde magazine Vou, shows her talent for vivid, bizarre, almost surrealistic imagery.…
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In the poems of Kazuko Shiraishi East and West connect and unite fortuitously. In her poems, Japan and Europe have entered into an inseparable marriage. Something very special and unusual defines these poems. On the way to a world culture, to a comprehensive world literature, Kazuko Shiraishi’s poetry marks one step. And it refutes Kipling’s dictum that East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet. In Kazuko Shiraishi’s poems this meeting has already happened.
—Gunter Kunert
Shiraishi is the Allen Ginsberg of Japan.
—Kenneth Rexroth
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