Out of his struggles, Kosuke Shirasu

Torriano Poetry, Sunday 15 October, 7.30pm. £5/£4 according to pocket. Poets from the floor welcome.

A bi-lingual reading from the work of poet and political activist, Kosuke Shirasu, (1905-1943), by the joint interpreters, Bruce Barnes and Jun Shirasu.

The reading is in the memory of the poet’s daughter Ichiko Shirasu

Kosuke Shirasu (1905-1943) was born in Tokyo, and worked as a journalist and pamphleteer. His involvement in the Japanese Communist Party was reflected in his work in Akita City, producing and circulating a newsletter for local workers as well as documenting the farmers’ riots against local landowners. In 1928 he joined NAPF, the All Japan Federation of Proletarian Arts, contributing to its official magazine, Battle Flag; by 1930 he had collected and published many of these contributions in his pamphlet Strike.

Proletarian writers such as Kosuke worked under extremely adverse conditions: state censorship, the mass arrests of communists and other political activists that began in 1928, and the impact on morale of the renunciation of communism by the Party’s two most experienced activists, Manabu Sano and Sadachika Nabeyama, in 1933.

His poems are influenced by European styles of free verse and often explore multiple perspectives; however his main concern appears to be a desire to record the day to day experience of workers in struggle.

The ‘interpretation’ process

Over a four year period, Jun Shirasu, the poet’s grandson, searched libraries and journals for Kosuke’s work and then shared his partial English translation with the co-author Bruce Barnes; a definitive interpretation was then developed through email exchange, and through Bruce Barnes background reading on the Japanese social history of the period, the development of Communism and the proletarian writers movement in Japan.

About Ichiko Shirasu

Ichiko Shirasu, the poet’s daughter, was the inspiration for the publication: a BBC World Service journalist, translator, and a polymath who kept faith with her father’s socialist principles by demonstrating them through her kindness and generosity. Sadly, her untimely death meant that she was unable to see her idea come to fruition.

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