Outcry from the Inferno

First published in Woodnotes #27, Winter 1995, page 51. See longer unpublished review with a new postscript. +

Outcry from the Inferno: Atomic Bomb Tanka Anthology, edited by Jiro Nakano. Bamboo Ridge Press, 1995, 104 pages, paperback, 6 by 9 inches. $10.00 at bookstores, or order from Bamboo Ridge Press, P.O. Box 61781, Honolulu, Hawaii 96839-1781. If you felt a need to read Lequita Vance-Watkins’ White Flash/Black Rain, you are likely to want this book too. Editor Jiro Nakano previously edited Poets Behind Barbed Wire, a 1984 anthology of tanka by Japanese-Americans incarcerated in relocation camps during World War II. In Outcry from the Inferno, Nakano collects 100 of the “best” of many thousands of tanka written about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the explicit goal to “abolish nuclear weapons from the earth” and that the book be fitting as a requiem for the bombing victims. Nakano’s translations seem polished and well crafted and the book’s design and production are impeccable. The content (the outcries of victims) may be disturbing, however. Also, a few poems are more political than poetic. But these voices need to be heard. Outcry from the Inferno is an important historical document that gives the voices of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) a needed stage in America. Two samples, by Harue Imamoto and then Masayo Nakamoto:

“Run under the beam!”

my dying wife cried out to me.

I will never remarry

because of what I saw

in her eyes.

Ten thousand or more

sank into this river—

today still flowing


its surface motionless.