Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nanao Sakaki

[from the left: Tenseki IIdaka , Sogyu Fukumura,Nanao Sakaki and Allen Ginsberg at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant, Japan, October 1988. Photo by Hitomi Watanabe.]

Strange, Strange

Each woman is a beauty
Why do we need Miss Universe?

Each person is a treasure for his nation & the world
Why do we need the National Living Treasure?

Each mountain is wonderful
Why do we need One Hundred Great Mountains?

Everything on earth is the sun's heritage
Why do we need the World Natural Heritage Parks?

The sun can live Ten Billion years.
How long will Japan survive -
Nobody knows.

In the public construction enterprise
Somebody makes big money
& breaks down the earth
Why do you call it public?

Stone Age Japanese never knew Atomic Energy.
Now nuclear power plants are
Poisoning modern Japan to a slow death

- Nanao Sakaki (November 20, 1999)
(unpublished poem, from a forthcoming Collected Poems of Nanao Sakaki, from Blackberry Books, Maine, Spring, 2012).

Witness to the mushroom cloud over Nagasaki, life-long global traveler, ecologist, activist, poet, translator, "desert rat", Beat accomplice, Nanao Sakaki (1923-2008)
- "he was one of my best friends in this lifetime", wrote Gary Snyder.

Peter Warshall's 1995 interview with the then 73-year-old Nanao for the Whole Earth Review might be one entry point. There is also another charming interview here, "Nanao Sakaki, Poet and Godfather of Japanese Hippies".

- and here he is reading in Japanese (there's footage here - and here too)
- and here is (audio of) Joanne Kyger reading his poetry

Here's a page of Nanao memorials - and here's some selections from the festschrift for Nanao, published by Blackberry Books in 2000, Nanao or Never.

Nanao's translations of Issa also come highly recommended.


  1. No one knows where the wind will take us;
    The future is in the wind,
    And the wind will take us where it wants
    Not where we want.
    Do not worry my friend
    Take each moment as a treasure.
    Taste it and relish it with fervor,
    For tomorrow is with the winds,
    It may blow anywhere
    But today the wind stays.
    Take it and relish it.

  2. A serious subject, but love the picture - like a Japanese Devo-type band - LOL