AMERICA AND OTHER POEMS by Nobuo Ayukawa, selected and translated by Shogo Oketani and Leza Lowitz. New York: Kaya Press, 2008, 152 pp. $14.95 (paper)

Nobuo Ayukawa (1920-1986) has in the West remained a relatively unknown poet. Though included in the "Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature" (as translated by J. Thomas Rimer), he is given only a footnote in Donald Keene's multivolume history of Japanese literature.

This footnote, however, importantly encapsulates Ayukawa's position. Keene quotes Ayukawa's 1945 wartime diary, which is "full of hair-raising descriptions of Japanese brutality. Local Chinese who were suspected of being anti-Japanese were dragged from their houses and taken out into the country, where they were bayoneted to death and kicked into mass graves."

Even when Ayukawa had himself later turned fairly conservative, as Shogo Oketani tells us in this important translation of the poet's work, he "unlike other conservative writers, never aligned himself with those who tried to deny or whitewash Japan's prewar and wartime history."