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Poetry

Do Not Tremble

By Toshiko Hirata
Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles
This poem was written in response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
It trembles
It is trembling again today
I did not know that the earth
Is an unruly cradle
A cruel cradle that lets
Neither adult nor child sleep
It is March, it is spring
It should be a gentle season of vernal sleep
When one sleeps so deeply there is no dawn
But spring this year
Shakes us to keep us
From falling asleep
Earth, it is enough
For you simply to
Keep spinning happily
Leave the trembling
To windblown flowers and
Laundry hanging in the yard
You should simply spin
Innocently
Those forces that shake the earth
May you turn to bubbles and disappear
Do not tremble
Do not trem
Do not tre
Do not
Not
No!
March 29, 2011

© Toshiko Hirata.  By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Jeffrey Angles. All rights reserved.
Read Context Explore Teaching Ideas
It trembles
It is trembling again today
I did not know that the earth
Is an unruly cradle
A cruel cradle that lets
Neither adult nor child sleep
It is March, it is spring
It should be a gentle season of vernal sleep
When one sleeps so deeply there is no dawn
But spring this year
Shakes us to keep us
From falling asleep
Earth, it is enough
For you simply to
Keep spinning happily
Leave the trembling
To windblown flowers and
Laundry hanging in the yard
You should simply spin
Innocently
Those forces that shake the earth
May you turn to bubbles and disappear
Do not tremble
Do not trem
Do not tre
Do not
Not
No!
March 29, 2011

© Toshiko Hirata.  By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Jeffrey Angles. All rights reserved.
Hear the Names

Listen to the pronunciation of the author’s name, read aloud by the translator Allison Markin Powell.

For more tips on pronouncing Japanese names and words, use this illustrated guide from wikiHow.com and this explanation of sounds, syllables, and stress from JapanesePod101.com.

Analysis of an Earthquake

Use the BBC’s Tremor Timeline to see the size, spread, and frequency of the earthquakes of that day (press the play button in the top left.)

Look at a NASA map of the locations and sizes of the quakes and shocks on March 11.

Then look at another map, showing the intensity of the shaking.

Find out the science behind the disaster in this special report from Scientific American.

Aftermath of an Earthquake

Look at photos of the March 2011 earthquake and its aftermath from The Atlantic

View the before and after images from the quake.

See a video from the NHK broadcasting studio, Japan’s largest broadcasting corporation, that was shaking in Tokyo during the quake. Then, scroll down to browse the other videos, including many oral histories, on the Great East Japan Earthquake Archive.

Look at the earthquake’s effects on apartments, offices, full buildings, and vehicles parked on streets in the first two minutes of this 26-minute video.

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Then, view video footage of the tsunami waves caused by the earthquake, published online by National Geographic.

Background on Japan

Pedestrians underneath umbrellas, their backs to us, walking on a Tokyo street on a rainy night.
Read the BBC’s short country profile of Japan, or visit nippon.com for the latest news. 

Writing After Disaster

Read March Was Made of Yarn: Reflections on the Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown, which includes writing from WWB Campus authors and translators, including Ryu Murakami, Hideo Furukawa, Mieko Kawakami, and David Karashima, who edited the volume.

Some of these stories, and others, are available in PDF format from the Japan Earthquake Charity Literature project. (Scroll down and click the links next to the authors’ names.)

Calls to the Other Side

Listen to “Really Long Distance,” an audio story from This American Life, which describes the unusual way that some people who lost loved ones in 2011 are coping with their grief.

Picking up the Pieces: Japan Post-Earthquake

Find out about the “bleak reality” facing many of the survivors of the 2011 earthquake in an article from the Japan Times.

Learn about what happened to some of the items taken by the sea years later in “Japan’s tsunami debris: Five Remarkable Stories,” from BBC.

Understand more about the lasting effects of the March 2011 disaster with CNN’s collection of videos, maps, and reporting from 2016.

A Natural Disaster and Nuclear Collapse

The earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 also caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the worst since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 (read “Memories of Chernobyl,” also on WWB Campus). Listen to a PBS story about the slow and dangerous clean-up of Fukushima.

Artistic Responses to 2011

Read an interview with the “prophetic” artist Ikeda Manabu, who painted a devastating tsunami three years before the disaster, and look at his more recent work, which portrays the aftermath of March 2011.

Then, find out how March 11 has influenced other artists in Japan and around the world:

  • The art collective Chim↑Pom’s projects including an exhibit using irradiated objects from Fukushima, volunteer work and videos in the villages of Fukushima, and an update of the post-Hiroshima Myth of Tomorrow mural in the Shibuya station in Tokyo. (“Activist Art Challenges Post-Disaster Japan” from PBS)
  • In the Wake, an exhibit of work from Japanese photographers at Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • A list of 10 more artists whose work responds to the disaster from Art Radar
Musical Responses to 2011

Learn about how the post-disaster music scene in Japan has “captured a cultural rift—hope scraping against fear and lack of faith in government,” and listen to some of the music, in a piece from The Atlantic. Then, read about the music scene in 2016: “Music in the Post-Fukushima Era.”

Then, listen to some of the anti-nuclear songs that became popular. 

“You Can’t See it, And you Can’t Smell it Either”

(Listen on YouTube.)

“Free from Nuclear Power Plant,” performed by a teen idol pop group that strayed from the apolitical norm of J-pop to deliver civic and political messages. (There are some typos in the English subtitles.)

(Watch the video on YouTube.)

Listen to the Atomic Bomb Compilation, put together by electronic producer Crzkny (Kenji Takikawa) on Bandcamp (in Japanese).

For more, read The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest Music After Fukushima.

Learning from Disaster

Explore the vast resources on “the cascading series of natural and human-made disasters” of 2011 in the Japan Disasters Digital Archive at Harvard University.

For educators: Read “Learning with Namie,” an essay about the March 2011 disaster that asks “how we learn with disaster” from the site Teach311.org.

For more from this site, which is dedicated to providing materials to teach about the Japanese earthquake of March 2011, search through English-language resources by selecting “English” under the language tab.

 

Japanese “Women’s Boom” Poets

Read more post-disaster poetry by Hirata Toshiko, translated by Jeffrey Angles and published in Japanese and in English, and two other poems translated by Hiroaki Sato.

Then, read about another poet from the “women’s boom” of poetry in Japan: Hiromi Ito.

You can find poems from both poets in Poems of Hiromi Itō, Toshiko Hirata  & Takako Arai.

More Poetic Laments and Appeals*
  • Afterimages,” by Audre Lorde—a lament for the brutal murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, a flood in the river where he was drowned, and other brutalities.
  • Nothing Remains Empty”—From Mexico, and originally written in the indigenous Mazateco language, an invocation that expresses the poet’s desire for his words to become powerful: “These images plead” and “they will be heard.”
  • Incantation,” by Czeslaw Milosz, a poem invoking the power of reason to save mankind.
  • Japanese Shinto prayers, which call upon “Spirits of the Sky and the Land” (scroll down the page.) 

* For Teaching Idea 1

More Complex Poems about Spring*

Looking for more poems? Check out the Poetry Foundation’s “Asian American Voices in Poetry” collection.

* For Teaching Idea 2

More Shaped Poetry*

* For Teaching Idea 3

To access these Teaching Ideas, please register or login to WWB-Campus.
English
It trembles
It is trembling again today
I did not know that the earth
Is an unruly cradle
A cruel cradle that lets
Neither adult nor child sleep
It is March, it is spring
It should be a gentle season of vernal sleep
When one sleeps so deeply there is no dawn
But spring this year
Shakes us to keep us
From falling asleep
Earth, it is enough
For you simply to
Keep spinning happily
Leave the trembling
To windblown flowers and
Laundry hanging in the yard
You should simply spin
Innocently
Those forces that shake the earth
May you turn to bubbles and disappear
Do not tremble
Do not trem
Do not tre
Do not
Not
No!
March 29, 2011

© Toshiko Hirata.  By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Jeffrey Angles. All rights reserved.

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