Kiwao Nomura (Saitama, 1951) is one of the undisputed driving forces behind contemporary Japanese poetry. His initial orientation was towards an academic career: he studied Japanese literature at Waseda University and taught for a number of years at Meiji University. For the past ten years or so, however, he has concentrated exclusively on creative work – as a publicist, performer, main editor of his own periodical and organiser of poetry festivals.
Nomura made his debut at the age of thirty-six with the collection of poems Wilting river, an immediate masterpiece in which a new voice could be heard, a ‘genuine’ poet with his own style and personal themes. It led to his being awarded his first important literary prize (the Rekitei Prize for Young Poets), the beginning of a whole series of awards that could now be considered a whole collection (including the prestigious Takami Jun Prize). To date, Nomura has had a dozen or so collections of poetry published, with such attractive titles as The rainbow under the cover of town clothes is a snake.
As early as the first collection of poems from 1987 we meet such poems as ‘We, madly are we sown with dust...’, in which the language constantly shifts like a meandering river, with incantatory rhythms that rely on an almost compulsive repetition of just a limited number of concepts or images, often seen from a slightly transposed perspective. This poetry is immediately pleasing to the ear and lends itself to interaction with other art forms. Nomura also likes to collaborate with musicians and visual artists – he sometimes when performing has a cellist as accompanist, he has produced a CD (L’ascension spectacle) where his hypnotic voice alternates with organ music by Olivier Messiaen, or he reads his poems beneath a screen onto which animations of abstract art are projected.
In all such experiments, Nomura shows himself to be very much in search of a centre of gravity where the almost ritual repetitions and revisitations of captivating sounds and (often erotic) images dissolve of their own accord into the night, darkness, nothingness, the end of a delirium – lullabies for adults, one could perhaps call them, not denigrating but in need of help. In the exasperating state of insomnia in which we, creatures of the present age, live, the poetry of Kiwao Nomura serves as a welcome release.
Kawanae/Dried River (1987)
Hanpuku-hoko/Repeated roams (1992)
Tokusei no nai Hi no motoni/Under the Sun without character (1993)
Selected Poems (1996); Kaze no Haibun/ Distribution of the wind (1999)
New inspiration (2003)
[ Kiwao Nomura took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2007.
This text was written on that occasion.]