Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Yorifumi Yaguchi: A Tribute

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Yorifumi Yaguchi: A Tribute

Article excerpt

Yorifumi Yaguchi has been writing poetry for over 55 years. We honor him for bringing a distinctly Japanese voice to Mennonite poetry--a deep voice, an honest voice, a "Jeremiah" voice. For most of us here, he represents a crucial poetic witness to a world at war--but from the "other side." While I was a boy growing up in Oregon during World War II and vaguely aware of blackouts to protect U.S. soil from potential Japanese bombing raids, Yaguchi-san was dodging U.S. bombs by hiding in coal mines and diving into rice paddies, then awakening one day to the news of a horrific blast in Hiroshima and listening to the crackling radio voice of his emperor in national defeat. Far from destroying his poetic gifts, this basic experience had given sharp focus and a prophetic quality to his voice. The writing of poetry became an essential part of even his studies at Goshen Biblical Seminary from 1962-65, when he was already publishing poetry in English, not only in Goshen's Foolscap but also in national magazines. His work is often a poetry of nature and of surprise, as we heard in the reading of words in all their mystery this evening. But also, as he himself has said of his poetry, "It's like an arrow. An arrow coated with poison and medicine."

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This poetic arrow delights the spirit but is often directed at militarism and nationalism in both Japan and the West, an arrow of healing with sources in both Zen meditation and Christian pacifism. Many may know his work primarily through the thirty poems in Three Mennonite Poets. But we honor him for a large and expanding canon of influence published throughout the world. He is author of not only five books of poetry in English but of eight in Japanese and one translated into Chinese. …

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