Nobuo Ayukawa was born in Tokyo in 1920 and is considered the “pilot” of modern Japanese poetry. He was one of the founding poets of the Arechi (Wasteland) group, and translated the work of T.S. Eliot and William Burroughs into Japanese. Ayukawa rejected traditional Japanese poetic concerns, mining his past experiences as a soldier in World War II and paying homage to his literary influences in abstract, lyrical modernist works that collaged remembered conversations among friends with literary quotations taken (and in some cases, reworked) from Mann, Eliot, Kafka, Pound and others. In addition to being a much-admired poet and translator, Ayukawa was a well-respected literary and social critic. He published over a dozen books of poetry, essays and literary criticism. He died in Tokyo in 1986.
“… His unflinching resistance to the hypocrisy of many of his fellow poets set him outside the mainstream of Japanese culture as it rebuilt itself out of the ashes of defeat.” – Hillel Wright
“You might read Nobuo to see what war did to him. You might read him because he’s a major poet whose work, still gathering force behind him, speaks directly to Americans in this dismal, blood-spattered moment of our own history.”
— Forrest Gander
“It is this voice, telling it as it is in the wilderness, that must be captured in any reading and in any translation. And this is just what the Oketani/Leza Lowitz translation does.” – Donald Richie, The Japan Times