Akiko Yosano, In Praise of May

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March 11, 2015 by Sarojini Seupersad

220px-Akiko_Yosano_posing_by_window

It’s day three of my 30-day series dedicated to brave and brilliant female poets.Today’s poet is Akiko Yosano, who was born in December 1878 near Osaka, Japan. Yosano was her pen name, and she was born Shō Hō, but changed her name after she had begun to write about more controversial topics, such as pacifism, feminism and individualism, which was frowned upon and dismissed by her contemporaries as frivolous and too political for a woman poet and writer. Her strong female characters who controlled their own destinies were not typical of other female characters written at the time.

She was famously prolific and wrote up to 50,000 poems in her lifetime. Her style is romantic and sentimental, but was widely seen as controversial at the time.

This poem is particularly vivid and relates her style of ornamental repetition and her ability to connect placement of things and memory directly to her feelings of romantic love.

In Praise of May

May is a fancy month, a flower month,
The month of buds, the month of scents, the month of colors,
The month of poplars, marrons, plantanes,
Azaleas, tree peonies, wisteria, redbud,
Lilacs, tulips, poppies,
The month women’s cloths turn
Light and thin, the month of love,
The festival month Kyoto residents
In twirled crowns, arrows on their backs,
Compete in horse races,
The month girls in the City of Paris
Choose for the Flower Festival
A beautiful, noble queen;
If I may speak of myself,
It’s the month I crossed Siberia, crossed Germany,
Longing for my love,
And arrived in that distant Paris,
The month to celebrate our fourth son,
Auguste, born last year,
With irises, swords, and streamers,
The breezy month, the month of
The blue moon, of platinum-colored clouds,
When the bright sky and the hemp palm
Outside the window of my small study
Remind me of a Malay island,
The month of honeybees, the month of butterflies,
The month of birth when ants turn into moths
And canaries hatch their eggs,
The sensual month, the month of flesh
That somehow incites you,
The month of Vous voulez wine, of perfumes,
Of dances, of music, and of songs,
The month of the sun when
Myriad things inside me
Hold one another tight, become entangled,
Moan, kiss, and sweat, the month
Of the blue sea, of the forest, of the park, of the fountains,
Of the garden, of the terrace, of the gazebo,
So here comes May
To toss at us a giddiness
Sweet as the lemonade you suck with a straw
From a thin, skinny glass.

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