Poetry International Poetry International

Mari Kashiwagi

Mari Kashiwagi

Mari Kashiwagi

(Duitsland, 1970)
Mari Kashiwagi was born in Erlangen, Germany, where her father was teaching as an exchange professor. Her family came back to Japan when she was six months old, and, after a short stay in Sapporo in northern Japan, settled in Tokyo, where she lives today. When a postgraduate student at Keio University in 1995, she won an award for her contribution of poems to the prestigious poetry magazine, Gendaishi Techo. Her first collection, Music, of Days, was published in 2000. The second book, Nectar’s root as far as its Resonance reaches, just came out in April 2008. Excerpts from it are presented in this issue of PIW Japan.
As the translator Takako Lento wrote in her essay ‘Reading Nectar’s root as far as its Resonance reaches’, the first thing that strikes the readers of Kashiwagi’s second book is the unusual amount of white space. Each poem is either just a single vertical line like the Japanese fixed-form verse (haiku or tanka), or a few words spread over the pages not unlike the works of some Imagist poets, or of e. e. cummings. As none of the poems has a title, the reader is uncertain whether they should be read individually as poems, or rather as lines that amount to a book-length poem. While each ‘piece’ represents its own microcosmos, there certainly are dynamic interactions among them, as one of the pieces indicates:

Nectar meets Nectar



Sometimes, the pieces create a beautiful harmony through the montage effect; other times, contradicting images and texture expand the boundary of this universe of Nectar. For example, in contrast to the sensuality in the above quoted piece, we also come across with the desolate and forlorn Basho-esque landscape:


the heart

to be beaten
against the earth

In fact, the visual effect of Kashiwagi’s text is similar to that of the traditional Japanese emaki, or a picture scroll, as you can see in the websites linked below. This may have something to do with the fact that Kashiwagi was a student of oriental art history and now works as curator of a major museum specialising in Japanese and Chinese art. Her interest in both words and images, and the chemistry between different mediums, is also reflected in her active involvement with the collaborations between pottery artists and musicians. Some of Kashiwagi’s poetry installations can also be seen in the website linked below.

In order to recreate this visual effect of Kashiwagi’s ‘Nectar’s root’ through the English translations on a computer screen, we have chosen to show both the English and the Japanese text, side by side, on one long page. So scroll down the text, just as you would do with the ancient emaki, and enjoy the sweet nectar from the fruit of the latest Japanese poetry.
© Yasuhiro Yotsumoto

Ongaku, Hino (Music, of Days), Sichosha, Tokyo, 2000

Mitsu no ne no hibiku kagiri ni (Nectar\'s root as far as its Resonance reaches), Sichocha, Tokyo, 2008


Mari Kashiwagi’s homepage

Mari Kashiwagi's poetry installation

Traditional Japanese poetry manuscripts (11th century)

Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère