Last month, the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation held its first-ever event featuring a Japanese poet, and, coincidentally, that poet was giving his first talk in English about poetry.

Kazuhiro Nagata has given presentations in English before, but it was in his role as a 細胞生物学者 (saibō seibutsu gakusha, cell biologist). He also happens to be a noted 歌人 (kajin, poet of tanka poems) and serves on the selection panel for the Asahi Shimbun's 短歌 (tanka) page.

Nagata introduced 『たとへば君 四十年の恋歌』 (Tatoeba Kimi: Yonjūnen no Koi-uta, "For Instance, Sweetheart: Forty Years of Love Songs"), the book he co-wrote with his wife, the poet Yuko Kawano. It tells the story of their relationship through their tanka and writings about each other. Sadly, Kawano passed away in 2010 from breast cancer; by the end of his presentation, Nagata was on the verge of tears. His talk inspired me to read his books and learn more about tanka.