Special Interview with Baba Akiko

Carol Hayes, Noriko Tanaka

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Born in 1928, Baba Akiko is one of Japan’s greatest living Tanka poets and literary critic. With an abiding interest in Noh theatre, her work has something of the ethereal of a Noh play, focused on the spiritual impact in the shadowy aftermath of an event. This paper records an interview carried out by Carol Hayes (ANU) and Noriko Tanaka (Tanka poet and critic) in December 2017, which the two authors then wrote up for publication. We discussed her life as a poet, her childhood and her survival through the wartime bombings of Tokyo and the aftermath of the war when both her home and school were destroyed. We began by asking her about the role of orality in tanka poetry, about the rhythms that are embedded into the 5-6-5-7-7 pattern of Tanka. We then went on to discuss freedom of expression in this very prescribed literary genre including the role of both literary language and newer coined colloquial expressions. She told us about how she became a poet and the influences on her work. We discussed some of the ideas central to her work such as her concept of the ‘oni’ or demon – Baba arguing that these demons of Japanese folklore are flawed humans that therein lies their dangerous allure, and the role of ‘nioi’ (fragrance) and ‘tsuya’ (luster) which Baba argues are central to the Japanese poetic aesthetic and something that could be all to easily lost in translation. Finally, we discussed the role and impact of English translation of her work and her attitudes to feminism and women’s roles in society. The paper ends with four sample translation that demonstrate four themes central to her work: demons, mothers, war and women.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationTanka Kenkyu (çŸ­æ­Œç ”ç©¶)
    Place of PublicationTokyo
    PublisherTanka Kenkyu
    ISBN (Print)13425633
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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