Twelve Views from the Distance

By Kimoto, Takeshi | World Literature Today, September/October 2013 | Go to article overview

Twelve Views from the Distance


Kimoto, Takeshi, World Literature Today


Mutsuo Ta ka hash i. Twelve Views from the Distance. Jeffrey Angles, tr. Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press. 2012. isbn 9780816679362

Mutsuo Takahashi is one of the most prominent contemporary Japanese poets to have thematized homo- eroticism. This superb translation of Takahashi's autobiography-nomi- nated for the 2013 Lambda Literary Award-is an excellent companion to the poet s other translated works such as Poems of a Penisist (1975).

Takahashi s oeuvre ranges wide- ly, traversing various genres from poetry to haiku, tanka to noh, and from Greek tragedies to fiction and the essay form. In his autobiog- raphy, he adopts a plainer prose style to narrate his family history, one that is filled with unhappy epi- sodes. Yet for the reader, the sad- ness is somewhat mitigated because of Takahashis optics of the weak that looks at this worldly cruelty as if from another world.

Takahashi was born in 1937 in northern Kyushu, Japans gate- way to the continent in the ongo- ing Sino-Japanese War. He lost his father when only three months old and was later separated from his mother, who went to work in China and became the lover of a Japanese business owner. When she returned after a year, she seemed a stranger to him. Thereafter, Takahashi tells us, his life was shaped by absence and separation. What allowed him to endure his solitude were the old songs and sometimes bloody tales that his grandmothers told him. The experience, he suggests, aided in the cultivation of his poetic imagination.

The environment in which Taka- hashi grew up was permeated by forms of violence, both public and private. His uncle died in a military hospital after being drafted and sent to Burma. …

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