Friday, October 22, 2010

"Stars and Dandelions"

Stars and Dandelions ( 星とたんぽぽ )

Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930)

Deep down in the blue sky
Like pebbles on the ocean floor
They lie submerged till dark comes...
Stars unseen in the light of day.
You can't see them, still they're there.
Even things not seen are there.

Petals drop and withered dandelions
Hidden in cracks between roof tiles
Wait silently for spring to come...
Their strong roots unseen.
You can't see them, still they're there.
Even things not seen are there.

(translated by D.P.Dutcher)

Image via wikimedia
What we can see with our eyes is not everything that exists. The invisible things do exist sustaining the lives of all the living things.  They can be love, thoughtfulness, gratitude, attention, prayers, .......,  people we don't know directly, or earth's atmosphere, soil, sunlight and other cosmic power which embraces all the things on the Earth.  We tend to fail to appreciate or even notice why we are here and are able to live.

Kaneko chose dandelions along with stars.  Is it because dandelion flowers look like stars in the fields?  Stars in the heaven and stars in the daytime on the Earth.
About the importance of the invisible things, some people would quote from Saint-Exupery's:  "What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."  or "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eyes."   I introduce "Hoshi to Tannpopoas a Japanese example.

Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930) is a female poet for children.  I like it when she touches the truth of existence both animate and inanimate, gazing at them gently and compassionately.  Her profound thoughts reach straight my heart because of  her simple and plain words.  I wonder if her soft spoken-Japanese like a gentle child is conveyed by translation to non-native speakers of Japanese.   

I got to know her poems in 2003 when the centenary of her birth was commemorated.  She passed away young at the age of 26.

Misuzu Kaneko's room
"Hoshi to Tannpopo" as well as "Suzume no Kasan" (Sparoow's Mother) is currently recited on TV advertisement of Hihakai Kensa (Nondestructive Testing) Ltd. in Japan. 


  1. Hello Stardust

    this is a beautiful post and very apt for one who writes under the pseudonym of Stardust...

    The poem translated very well and is touching in its simplicity and impact. Sometimes poems and stories written for children hold profound truths.

    What a sad story the life of Misuzu Kaneko is...
    Thank you for telling me about her life and poetry.
    Happy days

  2. She passed away young at the age of 26.
    The same age as John Keats.

    I wonder if her soft spoken-Japanese like a gentle child is conveyed by translation to non-native speakers of Japanese. Be glad that you can enjoy her soft-spoken Japanese. Others will get whatever they get out of her words. So be it.

  3. Stardust...the simple words of the poem and thoughts expressed were beautiful. What we hold in our hearts and mind affects what we really see in our world and others.

    I have a field of dandelions in the spring, which I love...I shall think of them as stars in the field and of you, when they bloom.

    Thanks for Misuzu Kaneko's poem and the link!

  4. I like the refrains of the English translation as well as those of original one;
    見えぬけれどもあるんだよ 見えぬけれどもあるんだよ

    Kaneko's words are so simple that I did not notice these profoundness before. Maybe children and those who have heart like children can feel it directly.

  5. Hi, Delwyn! I'm glad you related the poem to "stardust".

    Actually when I joined Online English Writing Course, I made my handle name "dandelion" and my blog pseudonym "star-dust" which would be faintly twinkle wishing to shine like a "star" someday.

  6. It was at this time of last autumn when we read English poems together under your guidance. Keat's "Ode to Autumn" is one of my favorites. It's a shame that such talented poets died so young.

    I personally like to hear her poems recited according to the language's natural rhythm which creates melodious sound, not as songs with music.

  7. Wanda, your surroundings are beautiful. I haven't seen a dandelion field other than in a picture. If I were there, I might feel like plunging into the cosmos-like field of dandelions and would hum "Dandelion Hill" by Square.

  8. Haricot... the explanation by Setsuo Yazaki helps me deepen my understanding of her poetry.

  9. Stardust

    After reading your post I went and read about Misuzu Kaneko further. Unfortunately I could find only three poems translated into English two of which you have given us. Do you know of an English source?

    Happy days

  10. Nice, Delwyn, you got interested. I have a copy of "Something Nice" (published in 2001) which contains poems by Misuzu Kaneko and English translation by D.P.Dutcher. Check here. It doesn't seem to be in print now.

  11. After withering and weathering the cold bitterness, they bloom adding bright flashes of color to the field like twinkling spotlights.
    I would often make a dandelion's wreath in the field.

  12. Thank you for the lovely comment, cosmos. I would make wreathes of シロツメクサ, or white clover, too.

  13. Hi Stardust,
    I love the simplicity of the Kaneko poem and the refrain, "Even things not seen are there," which I totally believe. I also like "what is essential is invisible to the eyes" because life's essence is unseeable but necessary. Your post challenges me to see beauty where it may not be obvious.

  14. Hi, Barb, welcome back! By bringing up the topic, I also remind myself not to forget and to keep appreciating invisible things I owe to.

  15. I followed the link you offered at the end of your most recent posting, as you made me curious about this Japanese lady-poet, and I like what I read...Yes, it's true, isn't it?! We tend to go through life without noticing so many things that are THERE! with dandelions, we see them, but we do not REALLY look at them because they are common, they are grasses in the field and therefore we tend to take them for granted.
    We tend to take for granted so many things...electricity, running water,transportation,good food...and then a quake comes and our world taken for granted is turned upside-down....How about that? Maybe we'll try to get wiser...

  16. Thanks for this comment, Gabriela. There are so many things we take for granted and realize of its importance when we lose it.

    This might sound rude to think of the sufferings of victims, but I think that catastrophe is a “wake-up call” to us for something important we left behind in the pursuit of material well-being.

    I’m glad you got interested in Misuzu Kaneko.

  17. I'm thinking to write poems for children may be even harder, because a child is more opened to the unseen world and he/she can immediately feel if we're trying to deceive him/her with fabricated metaphors without a true essence.
    I couldn't find more poems from Misuzu Kaneko, but I was impressed by her photograph on Wikipedia. I saw fragility and a kind of sadness in her eyes as if no one ever understood the sense on longing she had inside.
    The dandelions poem is very beautiful and I like the way you built your main idea around it, Yoko. You are right "we tend to fail to appreciate or even notice why we are here and are able to live."
    Not long ago I saw a TV documentary about an ants colony "responsible" for a whole forest grown in the middle of desert! I couldn't help and feel ashamed for doubts and uncertainties I still have concerning my role in this existence and the importance of me playing it. We humans are so hasty to rich the destination that we fail to see the road itself and live in every step we make along the way...


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