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Tanikawa Shuntarō, Ordinary People (Hardback - limited edition of 50 copies)

Translated by Takako Lento.

Shortlisted for the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize 2022

‘Ordinary People by Tanikawa Shuntarō is a friendly invitation to people-watch. Weaving in and out of first- and third-person speakers, the poems offer glimpses into personal, everyday moments, with a few delightful pockets of absurdity. In one poem, someone washes his briefs and thinks he will not die. In another, someone imagines the dusk of Mars. The poems are a result of empathetic observation which hints at the interior lives of its subjects, encouraging us to fill in the rest. The down-to-earth translation by Takako Lento is expertly transparent, allowing the poet’s warm glance to come through without pretense.’ Judges' report

On its surface, Ordinary People is a leisurely account of people-watching. These people pass by us, one after another, occasionally remarking on their own circumstances and observations of life. These individuals collectively give us a kaleidoscopic mapping of the world we all live in, even though each is arrested in a moment in life that seems totally mundane or even absurd. But curiously we begin to feel empathy and share with them a thrill of mystery, joy of discovery, or even satisfaction in accepting the enigma of life, as we fill out ‘the scenes’. Through this process we watch these individuals, taken collectively, form an intriguingly cohesive universe, just as thousands of miniature photos can create a photo-mosaic portrait. In the end we realize that Tanikawa has forged a picture of humanity in our times, out of a casual parade of ‘ordinary’ people.

Tanikawa Shuntarō is one of the most widely read and highly regarded of living Japanese poets, both in Japan and abroad, and a frequent subject of speculation regarding the Nobel Prize in Literature. Winner of numerous awards, he has authored over 100 volumes of poetry, light verse, and word-play. In addition he published translations in many genres including the comic strip Peanuts and Mother Goose rhymes. He has also produced a wide range of children’s books, essays, song lyrics, and scripts for radio, TV, and film. He lives in Tokyo.

Takako Lento translates poetry and prose from Japanese to English and vice versa. Her recent books of translation and critical essays include Tamura Ryu-ichi, on the Life and Work of a 20th Century Master (co-ed. Wayne Miller); The Art of Being Alone: Tanikawa Shuntarō, Poems 1952 – 2009; Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson (with W.S. Merwin); Pioneers of Modern Japanese Poetry, and Butterfly by Kashiwagi Mari. She lives in the United States.

Tanikawa Shuntarō, Ordinary People
Translated by Takako Lento
2021. 148mm x 210mm. 46pp. 
ISBN 978-1-925735-29-1
Release date: July 2021

Limited edition of 50 hardback copies thread-sewn between boards, with dust jacket.


This collection was crowdfunded via
the 2021 Vagabond Press Survival Fund.

Thank you to the generous souls who gave big and small. This book would not exist without you.


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