'Strong in the Rain," a classic Japanese poetry collection from Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1921), beautifully reveals much about both nature and humanity.

Strong in the Rain: Selected Poems, by Kenji Miyazawa, Translated by Roger Pulvers.128 pagesBLOODAXE BOOKS, Poetry.

Miyazawa, raised in rural Iwate Prefecture, was an agricultural science teacher, a devout Buddhist and a social activist. Best known for his children's books, notably "Night on the Milky Way Train," Miyazawa's poems reveal a deeper layer to the talented Japanese artist and activist. His sharply intellectual lyricism blends a knowledge of science and egalitarianism. Nature is not a peripheral ideal, subservient to humanity, but the essential core of existence. Miyazawa's imagery spans geological time as a metaphor for the heart ("My Heart Now") or evokes all the grief and guilt of death within the dropping of pine needles ("Pine Needles"). Stylistically, the poems startle in their diversity, from sparse, spare snippets of metaphor to long, prose-poems in narrative form.

The small tome starts with a comprehensive biography of Miyazawa in the introduction by Roger Pulvers and ends with copious commentary on the poems. The title poem, "Strong in the Rain," is considered Miyazawa's most famous, memorably praising a "Blockhead," a country man who acts in quiet compassion wherever he is needed. The reader can clearly feel Miyazawa's own values and hopes for humanity across time in these challenging but rewarding poems.

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