Poetry at Sangam




Shizuko Suzuki (1919 – ?): A haiku poet whose writing life runs parallel to the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952). Her first book, Shunrai (Spring Thunder), was published in February 1946, half a year after the Japanese surrendered, and became the second bestseller after the Japanese-American Phrasebook selling nearly 5000 copies within the first year of publication. Her second book, Yubiwa (The Ring) was published in January 1952, three months after the end of the Occupation, after which she disappeared without a trace. Working within haiku tradition, a male-dominant poetic form, she also represents the figure of the postwar woman, where the traditional structures – be it poetic, marriage, filial piety, interracial romance, women’s lives – were challenged and subverted. Traditional haiku deals with the present moment, the essence of things, without the interjection or projection of the poet’s experiences or emotions, while working in a constrained 17 syllable space. Suzuki Shizuko challenges all that by often breaking away from the constricting 5-7-5 form by writing lines that are 4 or 6 syllables, writing themes not of nature but of the postwar landscape where women dance with American GIs, where ants are killed out of mercy, where jazz dominates the drugged landscape. As to what happened to her, rumors abound: she died of drug overdose after her black lover, Carey Clark, died in Texas; she became a prostitute and is still working as one; she went to America; she went to Hokkaido; she committed suicide. The truth is, no one knows what happened to her – just like the Occupation period, she came and disappeared from people’s memory.

Poems by Shizuko Suzuki