Shockingly new

Sagawa Chika, born Kawasaki Ai in 1911, died of stomach cancer in 1936, before her twenty-fifth birthday. Even with such a brief career, she was one of the most innovative and prominent avant-garde poets in early-twentieth-century Japan. At the time, few women in Japan wrote poetry, and those who did typically used traditional forms to address domestic concerns. Sagawa sounded different: she wrote in free verse, not tanka or haiku, and her images were shockingly new. “A chef clutches a blue sky,” begins one of her many short, lyric poems, “Illusory Home.” “Four fingerprints are left; gradually / the chicken bleeds. Even here the sun is crushed.” / Adrienne Raphel, The New Yorker, AUGUST 18, 2015

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