VOX POPULI: Young sisters show fresh poetic sensitivity
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
I look forward eagerly to reading tanka poems by two young sisters whose works appear frequently in the Asahi Kadan poetry section of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun. That feeling is apparently shared by the section's panel of judges.
"My little sister wants to become an adult right now/ I want to remain a pupa," wrote Riko Matsuda, 13. Her younger sister, Wako, 10, wrote: "I'm a slow runner. I want to chat with a fish that is poor at swimming." pupa, imago
The Matsuda sisters, who live in the city of Toyama, are young stars of the Asahi poetry section. Since debuting in spring last year, they have each had 30-plus poems published in the paper. They have become regulars.
The girls often write about each other. A poem by Riko goes: "My little sister's smiling, sleeping face was so sweet/ I had to make Dad, who was in the middle of brushing his teeth, see it." And here's one by Wako about her big sister: "Big Sister twirls at the front door in her skirt/ She's going out." Another piece by Riko: "My little sister wants a new pair of boots/ She's studying hard and helping Mum around the house." And one by Wako: "Wore my new boots to a concert/ Sat through like a lady with my feet together."
The poems are like records of the sisters' growth. The older girl is maturing. "The mirror in the fitting room/ Shows an older me in a new school uniform." The younger girl is still a happy-go-lucky kid with a mind of her own. "The green tea ice cream parfait I ordered/ Was just like what I'd seen in a Kyoto guidebook/ I ate all the things shown in the guidebook, one by one."
Instead of using their fingers to count the syllables in their tanka verse, they acquired the 5-7-5-7-7 rhythm by saying the words aloud and counting their steps while taking walks with their mother, Yukiko, 41. The poetic inspiration they got from the walks can be felt in "Tanka de Sanpo" (Taking walks with tanka poetry), a collection of verse they co-published with their parents.
Some parents may want their daughters to be like members of the Nadeshiko Japanese women's soccer team, but there are many ways of using one's legs other than kicking a soccer ball. When fresh sensitivity and passion for poetry go into the creation of 31-character poems, inexperience in life and limited vocabulary are not handicaps.
I am in awe of the sparks of creativity displayed by children. The Matsuda sisters are now at the height of the sort of poetic genius no adult can emulate. I will watch their development closely.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 9