Inuo Taguchi (whose pen name literally means Dog Man) was born in 1967, a few years after the Tokyo Olympics that would herald the end of the ‘post-war’ years and the start of an economic boom in Japan. He grew up in Tokyo, able to enjoy those days of go-go economy, but it was only after Japan hit rockier times economically that he started writing poetry.
Taguchi’s work stood in distinct contrast to the mainstream Japanese poetry of his time. While the poems of his contemporaries were seriously intellectual, his were light, concrete and precise, and intelligent.
Taguchi’s first collected book of poetry, 20th-Century Orphan, came out in 1995. The Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union had fallen, and the world was changing rapidly:
Lenin is relieved
That the bronze statue of himself was taken down.
In fact for half a century,
He has wanted to lie down in Red Square
And listen to the Beach Boys
(From ‘Lives of Great Men’)
These lines are easily translatable from one language to another because they belong to the newly emerging global village, instead of to any particular place or people. Taguchi rarely deals with himself directly in his poetry, and instead of using the first person, he often enlists the dramatic monologue of other characters as a vehicle. His ‘self’ seems to be hiding behind the protective walls of his delicately crafted Japanese, letting the world speak.
Over the past decade, Taguchi has become one of Japan’s finest and most appealing contemporary voices. His second collection, General Moo (2000), won the prestigious Takami Jyun Award. Sometimes armored with wit and humor, sometimes with painful innocence and sincerity, Taguchi writes for those who don’t usually read poetry but whose souls are in need of it.
Nijyuseiki Koji (20th-Century Orphan), Shinpusha, Tokyo, 1995
Moo Shogun (General Moo), Shichosa, Tokyo, 2000
Armadillogic (Armadillogic), Shichosha, Tokyo, 2002
Hush-a-Bye (Hush-a-Bye), Shichosha, Tokyo, 2004
Taishi: Doro no koyomi (Dialogue-poems: Muddy Calendar; co-authored with Yasuhiro Yotsumoto), Shichosha, Tokyo, 2008
Sei Franchesca no Tori (St. Francesca’s Birds), Shichosha, Tokyo, 2008