English / Japanese

[Department of Japanese Language and Literature, School of Japanese Studies]
Professor MIYAZAKI Masumi

Because there are distances between us, words are born. Please feel free to savor the precious words that writers have left behind with your own breath.

Research Motivated by a Desire to Open Up Poetry

During my first year at university, a certain teacher recited Sakutaro HAGIWARA’s poem “The Swimmer” for us. I was shocked to find that this poet, who was called “the poet of eros and illness,” could write such free-flowing verse. There were other topics that attracted me, such as The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves and The Tale of Genji, but in the end I chose the path of researching poetry because my first impression was so vivid.

When researching poetry, I start from the words and the text. Why does this word appear? How is it used in other poems? By carefully reading the entire text, I try to solve those questions. If necessary, I turn to the writer’s life and background, but it’s important not to confuse the poet as a writer and the poet as a real-life person.

Poetry is made up of the only best parts that remain after multiple revisions and cuts. In research, though, we have to take the precious words that the writer has left behind and string together the spaces between the lines with our own dull words, as it were. I sense that dilemma, but I think it contains a desire to open up poetry. As in, I interpreted it this way, but how do you interpret it? Departments of literature are often misunderstood as places where all you have to do is read books in isolation, but research demands a more open approach to texts.

Words Come From the Feeling of Wanting To Be Understood

Words are things that appear because there are distances between us. Words aren’t needed for relationships where two hearts beat as one, such as a husband and wife who have been together for many years, or for relationships where the parties aren’t speaking to each other. Words are born, I believe, because people who are in a relationship where there is a distance between them think, “I want to be understood.”

Recently, it is said that the world is full of communication failures, but I think this is because young people in particular are afraid of being shunned or attacked by their friends for being overly sensitive to situations and speaking too directly. But human beings cannot relinquish their desire for “wanting to be understood,” so at some point the act of expressing things in words is necessary.

Poetry, the subject of my research, is generally thought to be a world that is hard to enter. Though few teachers seem to deal with them in their classes, poetry is not something you teach; it is something you think about and savor together. In the text, the author’s breath comes first, followed by the reader, who breathes new life into it through the act of reading. By allowing children to read freely with their own breaths, not simply making them read aloud after the teacher, I believe they will experience the joy of being allowed to participate in poetry and their image of poetry will start to change. If the opportunity arises, I would like to try teaching guest classes at elementary schools, and I also hope that people from the local community actively participate in open courses at the university so that we researchers can learn a lot of things from these exchanges.


Department of Japanese Language and Literature, School of Japanese Studies

Professor MIYAZAKI Masumi

Areas of Specialty: Modern Japanese Literature

From middle school through university, she belonged to the brass band club, known as “the athletic team of the cultural clubs.” Devoting her passion to the French horn, she learned about teamwork and effort. Deeply moved by the Japanese language questions on the entrance exam, she enrolled in university and discovered the profundity of poetry through class lectures. Currently, she is involved in research on modern Japanese literature from the perspective of modern and contemporary poetry studies, such as investigating the literary conditions during the period before and after World War II, focusing on the “Wasteland” school, and the process of formation of modern poetry within modern Japanese literature. She is Director of the Academic Information Center at Aichi Prefectural University.

Interview: KASUGAI Takashi; Writer: MIYAMOTO Yumiko


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