The poet WAGŌ Ryōichi 和合亮一, who was in the heart of the earthquake/tsunami zone on March 11, 2011, documented his experiences in a powerful and poetic Twitter feed, which quickly earned over 14,000 followers on Twitter. He later published the feed under the title “Pebbles of Poetry” 「詩の礫」 in the journal Handbook of Contemporary Poetry 『現代詩手帖』。 Below is my translation of the early part of the work.
Pebbles of Poetry (Excerpt)
The earthquake hit. I went to the emergency evacuation area, but things calmed down, so I returned to go to work. Thanks everyone for worrying about me. Your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated.
Today is the sixth day since the disaster. My ways of looking at and thinking about things have changed.
Everywhere I end up, there is nothing but tears. I want to write about this, writing with all the power of an Asura.
Radiation is falling. It is a quiet night.
What meaning could there be in harming us to this extent?
The meaning of all things is probably determined after the fact. If so, then what is the meaning of that period “after the fact”? Is there any meaning there at all?
What is this earthquake trying to teach us? If there is nothing it is trying to teach us, then what can we possibly have left to believe?
Radition is falling. It is a quiet, quiet night.
I was told that when I came back in from outside, I should wash my hair, hands, and face. We don’t have any water to wash ourselves.
I hear that no supplies have reached Minami Sōma, the city where I used to live. They say that’s because no one wants to go into the city. Please save Minami Sōma.
What does your homeland represent to you? I will not abandon my homeland. My homeland is everything to me.
They say the radioactivity isn’t enough to immediately cause abnormalities in our health. If we turn the word “immediately” around, does it become “eventually”? I am worried about my family’s health.
Maybe so. There are clear limits to things and to meaning. Perhaps that is what draws us away from meaning.
The day before yesterday, the corpses of a thousand people were washed onto the shores of Minami Sanriku, the same place that I used to like to go to from time to time to get away from the heat.
If we are to search for meaning in all of this, it is probably not meaning we would find but, rather, something close to the darkness of non-meaning—that temporary stillness lodged inside whenever we look directly at things, head on.
As I was writing this just now, the earth rumbled again. Everything shook. I held my breath, got on my knees, and watched the trembling until it was over. I am betting with my life. In the rain of radiation, I am all alone.
For a longer excerpt, please see the website of the Handbook of Contemporary Poetry.