by Araki Yasusada
The materials on the Japanese poet Araki Yasusada (1907-1972), a survivor of Hiroshima, were published in Grand Street, Conjunctions, Abiko Quarterly, First Intensity, Stand, and The American Poetry Review, among a variety of other publications. Gradually the rumor began circulating that Araki Yasusada did not exist and that the poems were a "hoax" perpetrated by the contemporary Japanese-American author Tosa Motokiyu (who passed away Summer 1996) and/or by the executor of his will, the American poet Kent Johnson. On August 9th, 1997, Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading newspaper, published a front page story on Araki Yasusada, accompanied by his apocryphal penciled portrait. The article, along with a subsequent feature story in the Asahi, had made Yasusada an emergin literary sensation in Japan. Indeed, no other poetry in English in recent memory has provoked such wide-ranging international discussion and controversy before book publication. In major publications in the U.S.,England, Australia, mexico, Russia, Spain, Israel and Italy, poets and critics have expressed excitement, hostility and bewilderment toward Yasusada's idiosyncratic work. They have judged it as everything from a "racist inspired hoax" to an "imaginative gesture of profound beauty and empathy."
Publication date: January 1997