Poetry from Naoshi Koriyama

Also in this Issue: Bill Wolak interviews Naoshi Koriyama

An Artist’s Apology to His Daughter

You may feel uncomfortable,

looking at those paintings

of nude women 

your father has painted.

He did look at the women 

as intensely

as he could, trying to reproduce

the gentle curves of their rich breasts.

He counted the threads of a model’s hair 

hanging on her nape.

He could feel the heartbeat 

of the woman in front,

as he moved his brush on the canvas. 

Perhaps he loved these women

more strongly than he loved your mother.

Here they are, painted for ages to come,

exposing their naked bodies

to the sun. 


From Eternal Grandeur and Other Poems, 1994 *



Under the Evening Sky of Rome

Did I reach out for your hand first?

Or did you slip your hand into mine?

Our hands seemed 

to have eagerly longed 

to touch each other. 

I didn’t want to let your hand go,

so I kept holding it 

as we walked along the bumpy sidewalk

of Rome,


the warmth 

and softness 

of your hand

with all my heart.

And I could feel your hand

softly responsive 

to the amorous squeeze 

of my hand. 


From Eternal Grandeur and Other Poems, 1994 *



A Poem Just for You

I call up every single word 

in my vocabulary,

measuring up 

one usable word 

against another 

in search of the best possible word.

I also examine 

every single working rule 

of my grammar 

to arrange the choicest words 

into a poem 

in the most powerful way. 


Sitting at my typewriter,

setting my body upright 

with my feet comfortably apart,

I exert all the force and power 

of my fingertips and hands 

hitting hard 

the keys

of the faithful machine . . . 


to write 

a poem

just for you . . . 



From Eternal Grandeur and Other Poems, 1994 *



A Morning Song

When I go to bed

I always put a notebook 

at my bedside 

so that 

I may depict 

your beauty 

when I see you 

in my dream. 


Groping in the dark,

I scribble 

and scratch 

word by word 

recording my joy 

of seeing you. 


In the morning 

I see strange loops

and crooked lines 

like wanton tracks 

of creeping earthworms 

on the open pages 

of the notebook. 


As I sit 

at my typewriter

deciphering the illegible scrawls 

loop by irregular loop 

line by crooked line 

your smiling face 

begins to appear 

right in front of my eyes. 


From Eternal Grandeur and Other Poems, 1994 *



when my children and i

when my children and i

came down the mountain trail 

after rambling in the hot island summer sun 

i took them 

to the stream 

at the foot of the mountain 

that flowed cool 

under the thick bowers of bamboo trees 


yes, i took them

to the mountain stream 

to let them drink 

the cool, clear water

that our unknown ancestors have drunk 

down the countless ages

here on this remote small island 


From By the Lakeshore and Other Poems, 1977.*


*reprinted with permission of the author 



Naoshi Koriyama is the author of the following books:


Coral Reefs, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1957.

Plum Tree in Japan and Other Poems, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1959.

Songs from Sagamihara, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1967. 

By the Lakeshore and Other Poems, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1977.

Time and Space and Other Poems, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1985.

Selected Poems 1954–1985, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1989. 

Eternal Grandeur and Other Poems, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1994. 

Collected Poems, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 1996. 

Poems about The Iraq War and Other Poems, Eiko-Sha, Tokyo, 2004. 



We Wrote These Poems: A Collection of Poems by Mentally Retarded Children, Hokuseido 

Press, Tokyo, 1982. 

Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan, cotranslated 

with Edward Lueders, Copper Canyon Press, 1995. 

Black Flower in the Sky: Poems of a Korean Bridegroom in Hiroshima by Chong Ki-

Sheok, cotranslated with Elizabeth Floyd, Katydid Press, 2000.

Beautiful Amami Island Folk Songs, The Hokuseido Press, Tokyo, 2001. 



Another Bridge over the Pacific: A Man from an Island and His American Wife, Vantage 

Press, 1993.