Nagashima was born poor in 1943 and grew up poor, enduring life struggles that gave her tremendous empathy for others while providing her with a healthy dose of reality. Later, she married a man 26 years her senior who suffered an incapacitating stroke that left him physically and mentally diminished. She acted as an unfailing caretaker, feeding him, washing him, administering medications and above all loving him. Although her life was certainly full by anyone’s standards, at 40 she decided to write poems that “gave her a real sense she was alive.” She did this by chronicling the difficulties and rewards of giving — and receiving — care. Her fourth book, “The Bean-Bun Diary,” about living with her stricken husband, was published in 1998 and received the Oguma Hideo Prize. Here, poems have been selected from five previously published books in Japanese by the poet and her renowned translator Hiroaki Sato, then translated into English.
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