Ryuichi Tamura
(Japan, 1923–1998)   
Ryuichi Tamura

Ryuichi Tamura is universally regarded as one of the most important poets of post-WWII Japan. Released from military service at the end of the war, he saw a new world rising out of the rubble, and was determined to be at the forefront of a new poetics. To this end, he called on fellow poets to help create a different kind of poetry to mark the new era. “It was Tamura who performed the role of our pilot after WWII”, wrote Nobuo Ayukawa, another representative poet of this period.

Tamura was instrumental in establishing the monthly poetry magazine, The Waste Land (Arechi) in 1947. He edited the first and the second numbers, with Saburo Kuroda taking over from the third through the sixth, the last of the monthly issues. Tamura also edited the annual anthologies Waste Land Poetry 1951 through Waste Land Poetry 1958, containing work by his fellow poets as well as his own. Through these activities, Tamura and his group, including Nobuo Ayukawa and Saburo Kuroda, laid the foundations of Japan’s post-WWII poetry, and built a lasting monument of their own times. These poets are often called “the Waste Land Poets”.

Tamura’s poetic style is a total departure from the past, and unique even among his contemporaries. He speaks of a certain poem by Ayukawa as being an epiphany that inspired him to write a poem, but the style and concept of his work are strictly his own. Many poets of later generations describe their first encounter with Tamura’s poetry as ‘shocking’, revelatory’, ‘eye-opening’, or ‘awe-inspiring’, regardless of their own inclinations or taste. His poetry remains fresh and powerful.

The poems translated here are taken from Ryuichi Tamura: Poems 1946~1976 published in 1976.

© Takako Lento

Selected Bibliography

Books of Poetry

The Four Thousand Days and Nights, Tokyo Sogen-sha, Tokyo, 1956
The World with No Words, Shoshinsha Publishing House, Tokyo, 1962 ( The First Kotaro Takamura Award)
A Green Thought, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1967
Perishable Substance, Tachikaze Shobo, Tokyo, 1971
New Year’s Letter, Seido Publishing House, Tokyo, 1973
Dead Words, Kawade shobo, Tokyo, 1976
Cross Purposes from Shuei-sha, Tokyo, 1978
Water Hemisphere, Shoshi-Yamada, Tokyo, 1980
Birds Laughed, Kamakura-Shunju-sha, 1981
The Watermill in Scotland , Seido-sha, Tokyo, 1982
Five Minutes to Go, Chuo-Koron-sha, Tokyo, 1982
Blithe End of the Century, Kawade-shobo, 1983
Glee of a Slave, Kawade-shobo Shinsha, Tokyo, 1984 (The Yomiuri Literary Award in 1985)
Summer Solstice in Wine Red, Shuei-sha, Tokyo, 1985
A Poisoned Cup, Kawade-shobo, Tokyo, 1986
Joy of Being Alive, Shuei-sha, Tokyo 1988
My Voyage Log, Chuo-Koron-sha, Tokyo, 1991
The Hummingbird, Seido-sha, Tokyo, 1992 (Contemporary Poets Award in 1993)
Gray Colored Notebook, Shuei-sha, Tokyo, 1993
A Foxglove, Shincho-sha, Tokyo, 1995
Town of Flowers, Kawade-shobo Shinsha, Tokyo, 1996
1999, Shuei-sha, Tokyo, 1998:
A Traveler Who Has Come Home, The Asahi Newspaper, Tokyo, 1998

Partial list of Collections of Poetry and Criticism

Collected Poems of Tamura Ryuichi, in three volumes: The Four Thousand Days and Nights, The World with No Words, Perishable Substance/A Study of Fear, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1966 (awarded Mugen Prize in 1978)
Collected Poems 1946~1976, Kawade-shobo Shinsha, Tokyo, 1976 (The Fifth Mugen Award in 1978)
Collected Poems: 1977~1986, Kawade-shobo Shinsha, Tokyo, 1988
Complete Poems of Tamura Ryuichi, Shicho-sha, Tokyo, 2000
Poetry and Criticism A, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1969
Poetry and Criticism B, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1970
Poetry and Criticism C, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1972
Poetry and Criticism D, Shichosha, Tokyo, 1973
Poetry and Criticism E, Shicho-sha, Tokyo, 1978


Over 50 books of translations from English including mysteries by Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen, works by Roald Dahl, etc.
Over 30 translations of picture books and children’s books

English Translations of Ryuichi Tamura’s poetry

Dead Languages: Selected Poems 1946-1984 translated by Christopher Drake, Katydid Books, Oakland University, USA, 1984
Poetry of Ryuichi Tamura by Samuel Grolms & Tsumura Yumiko, CCC Books, 1998
Tamura Ryuichi Poems: 1946-1998 by Samuel Grolms and Tsumura Yumiko, CCC Books, 2000


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