Grandma poet is dead at 101


Poet Toyo Shibata, who started writing at the age of 92 and whose first anthology sold almost 1.6 million copies, died Sunday, her son said. She was 101 years old.

Shibata died at a nursing home near her residence in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, said her oldest son, Kenichi Shibata. She had been in the home periodically since her health worsened last month.

“Her death came really peacefully and without pain,” the 67-year-old son said. “She kept writing poems until she was about 100. She needed help walking this past half year, although she was full of vigor.”

After the death of her husband, a chef, Shibata’s son encouraged her to write poems.

Her first anthology, “Kujikenaide” (“Don’t Lose Heart”), was originally self-published in 2009 and won praise for its humor and forward-looking attitude.

The volume was reissued in 2010 by major publishing house Asaka Shinsha, with new artwork and additional verses to make a total of 42 poems.

It sold 1.58 million copies in a country where a poetry anthology is considered a success if 10,000 copies are sold.

Translated versions of the book have also been printed in South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, company spokeswoman Asako Igarashi said. There are also plans to publish in China and Britain.

In 2011, Shibata’s second anthology “Hyakusai” (“100 years old”), was published to celebrate her centenary in June that year.

She also wrote a poem to encourage victims of the March 2011 earthquake-tsunami calamity in Tohoku.