Hideko Kono: Three Poems for Hiroshima

Yumie Kono, "Zone of Atomic Blast, Hiroshima, 1945 August 6, 8.15 A.M." 

                    YAKEATO MO
                    MANATSU NO AME WA
                    FURI SOSOGU
                    NURE HIKARERU WA
                    DARE NO HONE ZOMO

                    the land is burning
                    and the middle summer's rain
                    steadily drizzling
                    wet and glistening those ones
                    whose bones are they? I wonder

"What happened immediately after the atomic bombing in Hiroshima needed to be recorded," writes Hideko Kono in the preface to Genbaku no Uta: Poetry after the Atomic Bomb. "I wrote down my Tanka poems in one breath." 

Reaching from the smallest details to cosmic vastness, these searing poems map the shock and grief of devastating loss. Personal loss -- Kono's husband and youngest son were killed in the bombing -- merges with loss of place, community, fellow beings; the devastation of land sits beside devastated lives and futures.  

                    GYŪBA TAORESHI
                    KAWASUNA O
                    MICHISHIO NAREBA
                    HITASHI YUKUNARI

                    a multitude of
                    cows and horses have fallen
                    in the river sand
                    as the tide is coming in
                    they are immersed in water

Originally published in Kono's 1967 collection MICHI (The Road), these poems are now available in a beautifully produced Japanese-English edition, translated by Yumie Kono and Ariel O'Sullivan.

For more than a decade, Hideko Kono's daughter, artist Yumie Kono, worked with poet Ariel O'Sullivan to bring the sixty poems collected here into English. The translation project grew out of a performance piece they developed, together with artist Wendy Skog, incorporating ten of the poems in the original Japanese arranged for multiple voices. 

"I always wished to write down my experience of the war for my children," Hideko Kono writes in her original preface. Yumie's inherited urgency, she writes in her Foreword, is "to share her poetry so that readers will gain an understanding of one family's experience of war and the atomic bomb."

                    IKARI NIMO
                    TSUKARESHI WARERA
                    HITOMORI NO
                    HONE ITADAKI TE
                    KAERI KITARINU

                    with anger we are
                    exhausted and have agreed
                    to one bowl's amount
                    of these designated bones
                    we go back where we came from

Installation by Yumie Kono. Image courtesy of Rebecca Leroux

Ariel O'Sullivan and Yumie Kono at the Victoria BC launch. Image courtesy of Rebecca Leroux

Installation by Yumie Kono. Image courtesy of Rebecca Leroux

"When the bomb was dropped the heat drove the school children into the river," writes Ariel O'Sullivan. "Everything disintegrated except the school uniform buttons. They glistened in the water." 

The cover depicts bronze sculptures of the buttons cast by Yumie Kono.

Genbaku no Uta is available from Munro's Books and Amazon. To order a signed copy, use the contact form in the left sidebar drop-down menu.