“Mother”, poem by Nagase Kiyoko

March is International Women’s Month.  I can’t think of anything better to post here than what I do below. Nagase Kiyoko probably is the best woman I can think of to celebrate this month with.  (In fact, she is also a great woman to celebrate Mother’s Day, this day that is painful for many ACONs).   Politics come and go, but a poet speaks through the centuries.  Certainly Nagase Kiyoko goes deep and rattles my bones like nothing else I have read lately. She opens my heart to what is true and fundamental in being a woman.

Rollo May a 20th century psychotherapist has written about creativity.  In his “Courage to Create”, he writes that creativity is generated by our encounter with opposition.  Certainly Nagase Kiyoko, who wrote poetry at her kitchen table while her children and husband were asleep, and suffered the issues of older Japanese women faced this head on.  Her poetry inspires and she is a prime example of this courage to create.  She is a good grandmother for all of us women poets.  Actually, for all women, poets or not.

Lady Nyo 




I am always aware of my mother,

Ominous, threatening,

A pain in the depths of my consciousness.

My mother is like a shell,

So easily broken.

Yet the fact that I was born

Bearing my mother’s shadow

Cannot be changed.

She is like a cherished, bitter dream

My nerves cannot forget

Even after I am awake.

She prevents all freedom of movement.

If I move she quickly breaks

And the splinters stab me.

—Nagase Kiyoko  (1906- 1995)

Nagase Kiyoko wrote poetry for 65 years.  She never called herself a ‘professional poet’, but referred to herself as ‘a useless woman’.  She was a farmer, and wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn, while her children and husband were asleep upstairs.  Because of her sensual and cosmic verse, Nagase Kiyoko is considered by many Japanese women poets to be the “Grandmother” of modern poetry.  Just a short reading of her verse goes deeply into the heart of the reader.  She is ageless in her verse.  She died on her 89th birthday.

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22 Responses to ““Mother”, poem by Nagase Kiyoko”

  1. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Wow. Her poem cuts right to the bone of the matter(mater) doesn’t it? And yours is equally powerful. I loved this when I first read it; so tight and spare, yet a very long temporal and emotional wingspan. Such great work, this lean channeling of pain through chronological filters. Hopefully you’ll know soon enough the answer to the question your own poem poses. I know what that sounds like. But nonetheless.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CS: no one can write a comment like you. It’s like flying off the rim of the universe. Your thoughts are so powerful in of themselves that they deepen the poetry beneath. Thank you.

    Oh, I have fallen in love with “Grandmother”. LOL! Wouldn’t our lives be so different if she was in the closest of DNA? She speaks directly to the pain and terror of mothers such as these. Wow! What transcends culture, age, countries.

    We didn’t get Sobo, we got yajuu…or something like that. LOL!

    You always give me so much to think further in my own poetry, CS. This is a particular genius of yours. And I loved your haiku at 15. Cutting right to the matter(mater…LOL!) of the issue.

    I keep patting her cheek, this wonderful poetic Sobo. How I wish I could wrap my arms around her and hug. She looks so kind. I did listen to some of her poems in Japanese…and she really does read them like a housewife! Not a pompous poet! I love that about her. What a wonderful woman she was and is.

    Yes, I probably will know soon enough, but the mourning has been all through life…the absence of mother-comfort.

    We both was wabbed.

    Love, Jane


  3. czbz Says:

    “no one can write a comment like you, CS. It’s like flying off the rim of the universe. ”

    Wow. Thanks for saying that, Jane. I hesitate writing comments cuz my words have the wingspan of a moth. I feel lots better now. And you know I love CS as if she were my sister. That may or may not be a compliment but I mean it in the most loving way.

    Thank you for bringing Nagase Kiyoko to my attention. I will look her up and read more of her work. By the way, I have a book of Kitchen Poetry written by an American woman but it’s akin to the poetry I’d write if I could. You know, Eggs and Begs; Dishes and Wishes; Milk rhyming with Silk—fetching blue ribbons at the county fair. What I don’t know about poetry could fit in the grand canyon if the grand canyon were a bowl. Which it isn’t, but you get the drift.

    And your poem. “Travel from hatred to love, Finally understanding this old man.” This sums up my relationship with my father whom I’ve been able to forgive and love; but it has taken years. My hard work has been worth it since both my parents try extremely hard to love me back.

    I also appreciate that you’ve emphasized the uncertainty and difficulty of forgiveness, a process that’s little understood and frequently trivialized. The “dull blanket of forgetfulness”…how perfect.



  4. health Says:

    Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together.

    I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Dear CZ…sometimes you drive me to hurt myself, in place of hurting YOU! You are one of the most perceptive and brilliant writers…yes, YOU, and I just can’t understand WHY you don’t see this. Your articles, going on for over 10 years now, on not just narcissism and all it’s attendent issues, but your ability to dig deeply into things, to lay bare what is hidden, to dissect these things and lead forth with such clarity! Well, you just don’t have a full understanding of what you mean to so many people…especially women out here who have suffered a life-time of various abuses….most of them stemming from the pathologies of narcissism, etc. After years (me) of therapy to get a handle on this issue of narcissism and it’s destruction of the psyche, I can say that a consistant reading of your blog and the personal emails that you give of yourself, …well, it’s as good as any therapy you can pay for. And you do it with grace and such generousity. Your comments are stellar, too. I have learned so much from you in these 4 or 5 years and you truly have ‘saved’ women’s lives…if nothing else, you have given clarity and strengthened resolve to continue to live. It’s a weighty responsibility that you, CZ, shoulder and you have impacted so many lives with your words. I would rather read you than any of the Sandra Browns, et al. that write today about the real damage of narcissism…that is why I try to push you to write your book. I think any time that you claim CS or me or any other ACONs, we smile and know that our stock has gone up! lol!

    Nagase Kiyoko: Oh, CZ, I was blabbling to my husband who was trying to sleep about her, and what I have just found in her poetry today. I spent most of the day trolling websites because she went deep into my heart. I read her “Grendal’s Mother”, something that I didn’t expect from a Japanese woman poet, and then other poems of her collections (14 in all) and I Was Hooked. My spirit soared with her words. I found something that truly broke open the heart of poetry and revealed its strength and promise in her words. I am so excited that you are going to read her at some point. I felt for the first time that poetry isn’t beyond reach, and she is so natural in it. I can see her sitting in the almost dark, before dawn, her plank wooden kitchen table lit by an oil lamp and she bent over her poem. She was a farmer, with a farmer for a husband, and that is a hard life. But what incredible and transendent beauty and SENSE did she write!

    Well, I am glad that my poem connected with you with your own father. That means everything to me, when a reader draw out a connection from our cobbled words. And yes, you have it exactly, though I only see these things through the comments about my own poems…I wouldn’t have said that, but you are right: the uncertainty and difficulty of forgiveness.

    You know what I have been facing here in my city over the past few weeks…you, CS, TR and a few others lifted up my spirits when I didn’t think it was possible. Finding Nagase today was of the most beautiful gift because her poems put so much in perspective. Her “Mother” just ripped my heart open. There are so many layers in her simple words that I felt that I was truly reading a master poem for the first time. She hit me that hard.

    Thank you, CZ. I hope I have embarassed you enough tonight. I mean every damn word, too.



  6. czbz Says:

    ha! I am teasing with you a little, dear Jane! I cannot for the life of me, capture so many feelings and thoughts into so few words. It is amazing to me each time I read your poetry, or the blogs of people leaving comments on your site. So don’t take my self-deprecation too seriously. Where I grew up, it was an intelligent girl’s way to keep herself from getting “knocked down” for being self-centered. ha!!

    I love that Nagase Kiyoko wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn and it really did remind me of a little book of poems I kept in my kitchen for years (even while we lived on the farm). A woman can’t read a novel every morning to boost her self-esteem and confidence but she can find the time to read a poem that gives meaning to her day. Poems are comforting friends.

    And also, I love having differences and unique talents specific to each of us and it’s enriching and delightful when we can “shine” in our own right without being competitive. This is so so so important for women especially since we’ve been groomed for “relational aggression.” I love that you are a fine poet and that CS can write words I’ve never even heard of; and I trust that you love me for being narcissism’s formidable foe.



  7. ladynyo Says:

    Oh! I love you very much and for more than being Narcissism’s formidable foe! You know that.

    These blogs, yours, TR’s, CS’s, all of them…have opened my eyes to such a world of diversity and intelligence. And you are so right about the training from early on, in ‘relational aggression” . I saw it in my mother, I saw it all through out life, even with the feminist movement….it was still a haunt in our psyches…never really confronted and brought up to the surface and dealt with with serious blows.

    Yes, poems are comforting friends. I think of Nagase Kiyoko (in Japanese, as you probably know, the surname is first…so I guess her first name is Kiyoko) composing her poems in the almost dark of an early day, when we are fresh from sleep and perhaps some of our dreams are still perolating in our brains. Anyone who writes “Grendal’s Mother” has got to be suffering from some strange nightmares! LOL!

    CS! Aggghhh! I have to have a dictionary besides me to even understand some of her words. LOL! She is brilliant and what I am finding is that everywomen on these sites have their own special brand of genius. Well, the ones we know. LOL!

    As for capturing a poem, or the essence of a poem in a few words….this probably has it’s feet in my early studies of tanka and haiku, before I ever thought of being a poet or writing a poem. I fell into this before any conscious understanding about western poetry, and had a lot of problems sitting still for poets like Wallace Stevens, Pound, etc…Long written poets. I don’t know but I do know that Western poets tend to go on and on…and frankly, my eyes cross when I read a poem that is too long in my opinion. Or perhaps it’s ADHD kicking in. LOL!

    Thank you, CZ. I also love you for your generous spirit, and your steady hand and mind. It is comforting to know a woman like you. You are a rare bird.



  8. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Hi guys, I find it amazing the difference between the voluble (in the best most generous way) expressiveness of Jane in her comments, and the extraordinarily disciplined tightness, spareness, of her poetry. ONly a real poet can do that–have her own personality when she’s talking with friends, and then, as a poet, bring such intensely focused brevity and aerodynamics to the poems. You write after the Asian tradition, and manage to do it with grace and veracity. Both you, Jane, and CZ, are wonderful writers with huge hearts. I will try not to make anyone haul out a dictionary (even if it’s on Google) anymore. love to you both. CS


  9. ladynyo Says:

    I’m falling on the floor, CS! Oh, PLEASE…you have been a ‘continuing education’ for me, darlin’. I have increased my vocabulary with having to look up words in your emails, comments, posts. LOL! This is the best of all worlds, because when can we do this with delight? And from such a fine friend? And a great writer, too.

    I don’t know what it means to be a ‘real poet’, CS. I tried to approach that in the reading the other day, but of course I was talking to other poets, and it’s like herding cats, everyone has their own…ideas. I do know that I don’t have much patience with longgggg winded poems, and I think this is a chore for a lot of readers of longggg poetry. I lose interest or attention when faced with such stuff.

    Of course, studying Asian and actually almost Iron Age Japanese poetry…LOL! has impacted upon my verse, but I also think that a few years of doing flashers: 100 and 200 word stories…not scenes,has helped.

    Hard,I basically stayed away from the 100 word form… too difficult) but to come in at 200 words, whole stories, made you cut out everything extra. You had to compress a lot of stuff but when it worked, it really was a distillation of some pretty strong liquor. LOL!

    The conversation with friends, like the women who comment here and out there, is a cosmic relief from the sparseness of the poetry. It’s like being a geisha. At the parties they are not allowed to eat or drink (much) and they are starving. When they go back to mama-san’s house, they gorge themselves in the middle of the night! I gorge myself with you guys. It is a great relief.

    I am thinking of creating a new page, just for women to write their own poems about their journeys through divorce, rejection, narcissism, the stuff that we know have been so painful. I want to encourage everyone to write themselves into healing, recovery. I found that poems were the conduit for me to recover…in fact today, while rototilling the back yard, I wrote one of the angryist poems I have ever felt come bubbling up to the surface…about my divorce…30 years ago! LOL! For the first time, I talked in poetic voice about some of the really painful and angry passages of 13 years with that rat buzzard. LOL!

    So….we will see. For me, poetry has been recovery…healing, and an accummulation of strength and self-worth. I think it can be this and more for all of us.

    And don’t spare the complicated words, CS. I am depending upon them to fend off demensia.

    Love, Jane


  10. Caliban's Sister Says:

    I love the idea of creating a new page for poems about women’s traumas. I can’t do what you do, Jane–and both you and CZ lovingly exaggerate about the dictionary–but i’ll try to keep coughing up some that are nice and…lessee…atavistic, so you’ll have some work to do, now that you’re done with those neighborhood….lessee….martinets.


  11. ladynyo Says:

    Hah! I knew that word. LOL! But yes, these martinets,(like that word!) these trolls, bullyboys, these wolf pack girls (ahem….women who act like hs teens and are not worthy of the word ‘women’) these rat bastazds as CZ calls these folk…are rather atavistic…or in biology, throwbacks to a time when evolution wasn’t so…progressed. Perhaps these people still drag their knuckles on the ground? Perhaps they have tails like poor baby Tsuki? (Methinks they have horns, or perhaps a cloven hoof or two) LOL! Well, mentally. Ah…you got me going,I needed a good laugh this morning.

    I’m glad you like that idea of a new page for women’s trauma poems. I think it’s a way of healing, and at least getting out the anger…somewhere not festering in the gut and churning away giving ulcers. Keep those words coming, CS. They help the mind keep flexible as the body goes blah. LOL!

    Love you!


  12. TR Says:

    Wow, the two poems are beautiful because in a few chosen words, in so little space they speak of under lying pain. It is as if there is room for the writer and the reader to feel, their emotions that fill in the gaps.

    It was haunting to read and her story inspiring: “I can see her sitting in the almost dark, before dawn, her plank wooden kitchen table lit by an oil lamp and she bent over her poem.” I could picture her doing so in the middle of the night. The night when all that causes pain is sleeping and her voice can emerge. Her poetry emerged, her creativity came out at the only time that was hers.

    Thank you for dedicating this and I am honored to know a woman like you – a beautiful and inspiring poet.
    Hugs, TR


  13. ladynyo Says:

    Oh! HUgs back, and you have no idea how much I am indebted to you this morning. Ugh! that passport thingy is going to be a mess….he left it hanging too long. A month ago I went to reup….but he said, ‘we have three months left!” Hah…we have two months, and to get into Germany, we need to have it valid for three. We shall see.

    Thanks, Sweetheart….glad you liked both poems….”Grandmother Nagase” is something else.

    Love, Jane


  14. TR Says:

    No, no, no; you are not indebted to me LOL. This happened to us too ironically. It can be resolved.

    I am really glad you introduced us to her poetry. I am still amazed by her story and writing. Hugs, TR


  15. ladynyo Says:

    I hope. My husband is so slow on these things, and I am a ball of knots. I really don’t want to go.

    Isn’t she amazing? I love her work. Will post more of it soon.

    Hugs, Jane


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  22. ladynyo Says:

    You are welcome. I am comng out of a hard era….broke my thigh, and three surgeries in 5 months last year. Learning to walk all over again. I need to read good people’s work. And you are.

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