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"Shi no Tsubute" (Pebbles of Poetry)

"Shi no Tsubute" (Pebbles of Poetry)

July 21, 2017

Fukushima poet’s tweets win French literary award




By KENJI IZAWA/ Staff Writer

Poet Ryoichi Wago speaks in Fukushima (Photo by Kenji Izawa)


A series of verses posted on Twitter by a high school teacher over the two months following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has won a French poetry award.


Ryoichi Wago, 48, flew to the French region of Jura to attend the July 20 awards ceremony.

Wago edited more than 1,000 poems he tweeted after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, and published them in the book “Shi no Tsubute” (Pebbles of Poetry).


The French translation, “Jets de poemes: dans le vif de Fukushima,” won the foreign poetry category of the Prix de la Revue Nunc, an annual poetry award founded this year by a French publisher.


The French poets and editors who judged the award praised Wago’s work for its “depth and purity of poetic language that arose from such tragic circumstances as the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”


Wago, a high school teacher of Japanese language in Fukushima, won the Chuya Nakahara Award, a Japanese poetry award, in 1999.


Five days after the disaster, Wago began posting on his Twitter account, seeking to share his sense of despair with others, as the city of Fukushima experienced strong aftershocks and rising radiation levels.


“I would just end up with tears. I shall give my body and soul to making poems,” he tweeted.

“Radiation is falling/ It is a quiet night.”


In no time, the number of followers of his Twitter account shot up to more than 14,000 from only a few.


“I had been writing poems for many years, but had little response,” Wago recalled how he felt. “Twitter, which allows us to instantly receive responses, has brought revolution to the minds of poets.”


Six years have passed since the days when he just kept tweeting verses. He has been concerned how public attention of the disaster has waned, when he received news of the award.


Now he has renewed his resolution to “deliver messages of Fukushima to the world.”

“People appreciate the true virtue of spring only after experiencing winter,” said Wago. “I believe there is a language that can reach people around the world precisely because it comes from Fukushima.”


“Shi no Tsubute” was originally published by Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co.


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