Born in 1936 and brought up in a farming village in Ibaraki, Kimura Nobuko attracted attention with poems that mix folkloric and dream elements. As she has explained in an essay, early on she
made poems by “faithfully recording [her] dreams,” which she says she sees only in vivid color. Later, when the process made her poems “falter or dissipate” midway, she began adding elements that
weren't in the dreams, talking into account “real” situations and considerations. This blending of dream and real elements is based on her belief that “a dream is not just a set of images but an
This approach makes Kimura's poems unique in modern Japanese poetry. Also, it sets them apart from the early Surrealists' experiments with dreams, as the poet Shimaoka Akira points out. Or, as
another poet, Fujiwara Sadamu, notes, “the contents of her poems may be far more surrealistic than Surrealist poems, but they press upon the reader with an odd sort of realism and immediacy.” In
her handling of dreams, she also differs from writers who carefully build fictitious worlds out of their dreams, Fujiwara says, adding: “It seems to me that irrationality which isn't half-baked
but thorough takes on the coloration of orderly rationality.... Kimura Nobuko dazzles us by constructing a world of such boldly thorough irrationality.”
Kimura once said of her writing process: “A poem is born, not so much because I make one. It's just that something spurts out of me and hurriedly presses me into writing it down.” As she has
explained elsewhere, though, this doesn't mean she doesn't rewrite her poems. On the contrary, she works out different versions, sometimes three or four of them, rather than revising the initial
Kimura started publishing her poems in her twenties. Her first book, Kimura Nobuko Shishû (Poems of Kimura Nobuko), appeared in 1971.
She has followed it with five books: Onna Moji (Feminine Handwriting), in 1979; Watashi to iu Matsuri (I the Festival), in 1982;
Karikari (Temporary, Temporary), in 1985; Kadoki, the meaning of which she professes not to know, in 1987; and Himeguri (Going
around the Day), in 1996. The selections here come from all six books. Since the early 1980s Kimura has also published five books of poems for children. A housewife since her
marriage, she has remained independent of any poetry group.
I thank Robert Fagan, Lenore Parker, and Nancy Rossiter for reading the translations and helping me revise them and Linda Pèavy and Ursula Smith for their editing expertise.
New York City