This volume presents, for the first time in English translation, the poetry of contemporary Japanese writer and social critic Ōba Minako. Acclaimed for her works of fiction, a number of which have been translated into English, Ōba has also written several volumes of poetry and in fact began her career as a poet. While many critics have commented on the “poetic” aspect of her fiction, few have chosen to examine her work from this perspective.
Tarnished Words is an introduction to Ōba’s poetry and includes a full translation of her first poetry collection, Shishu sabita kotoba (A Poetry Collection of Tarnished Words, 1971), as well as translations from other poetic writings, A New Collection of Fairytales (1990) and Once There Was a Woman (1994). Marked by a profound awareness of the ancient Japanese tradition of Japanese women writers, Ōba searches for her own female identity through the classical past and against the backdrop of twentieth-century holocaust and global repositionings. A witness as a young girl to the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, Ōba later traveled abroad where she spent many years in Alaska as a young wife and mother. Out of these experiences came Tarnished Words, a searching, semi-autobiographical collection of poetry that critically examines female subjectivity, the impact of war and violence on young women, and the workings of gender and power relations that have helped to form the contemporary world.
Tarnished Words is translated by Janice Brown, Professor of Japanese at the University of Colorado Boulder.