Go to: Selected Poems of Kitasono Katue or Glimpses of Avant Garde Japan



Introduction, Facsimiles, and Translations



As a first step in trying to make the works of Kitasono Katue available to a wider audience, we have not only published an edition of his poems in John Solt's English translations, we have made some tentative arrangements for translations of poems into other languages. The group of poems presented here do not rely heavily on nuance or other characteristics specific to Japanese, and their sound properties arise largely from repetition. Hence they may be easier to translate than other poems, and some translators have been able to work from Solt's English. As much as these poems may be "easier" to translate than others, they may also have a more immediate and universal appeal than more complex poems.

The first set of links lead to reproductions of the pages of the five basic poems as they appeared in Kitasono's books, Kemuri no chokusen (1959)) and Blue (1979). Kitasono was working on the title poem of the latter at the time of his death, and we include it in part to show a link between it and the poems in Kemuri no chokusen. We present these facsimiles largely to give readers from other parts of the world a better sense of Kitasono's approach to the presentation of poems on the page, as well as making them available to those who can read the Japanese. At a later date, we will arrange for Japanese versions that may be clearer and easier to read in electronic reproduction, though we hope that these facsimile pages will still serve the functions of presenting the originals as they first appeared.

Although our primary concern has been with reproduction of the text, the electronic environment presents problems with accuracy of reproduction. Of the many compromises necessary in the electronic environment, one has been to enlarge the pages somewhat to make the graphs more legible. In the first two poems, "Monotonous space" and "Black church," we have run the pages together in continuous screens. The reader of these should start from the right and read to the left. The third poem, "White gestalt," appears in two versions: one reduced so that the reader can get a sense of how the complete pages look together, and one larger and more legible reproduction. Again, reading order moves from right to left. The last two poems, "Une autre poéme" and "Blue," appear in their original page format, read from right to left, but we have stacked the pages vertically so they would be easier to print out and so the reader does not have to first scroll to the right, then scroll to the left while reading. These last two poems give the reader a sense of Kitasono's use of passages in other languages, if only in the poem's titles. He sometimes used English and French words and lines interspersed with Japanese Kanji and Katakana to give the poems an international quality, to suggest the inadequacy of a single writing system, and to give his pages a denser and more complex texture. It would have been annoying to most readers if we had made some sort of indication of these uses in the text of the English translations, but the facsimile of "Une autre poéme" should give at least a hint of the polyglot texture of Kitasono's pages. We also hope that the reader gets an impression of Kitasono's sense of the verse "line" as it evolved away from traditional eastern and western forms of lineation, how the sparseness of graph rows and their relation to negative space contribute to the poems' rhythms, and how much Kitasono reoriented the relation of vertical to horizontal reading.

"Monotonous space" was Kitasono's most widely circulated poem published outside Japan during his lifetime. A cornerstone of Concrete Poetry, simply enlarging its graphs produced sufficient images to act as a catalyst as well as an example for a literary movement in the Atlantic Cultures. The poem's popularity outside Japan gave rise to the puns and the miniature poem in our edition's title. Oceans Beyond Monotonous Space.

We will not attempt to include an endless series of languages in this translation project, nor would we like to see these become the only 20th Century avant garde Japanese poems available in other languages. These pages are presented here informally, as the beginning of what we hope will become a greater appreciation of Kitasono through the World Wide Web which he foreshadowed in his lexical and visual poems.

— Karl Young







English — John Solt

Español — Carlos Martinez Luis

Magyar — Koppány Márton

Italiano — Anny Ballardini

Türkçe — Aysegül Tözeren

Thai — Ploi Umavijani

Nederlands — Stijn Schiffeleers

Português — L.C. Vinholes

Svenska — Per Kjellqvist

Deutsch — Martina Groß

Français — in progress


Go to Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry