Toshikazu Yasumizu has to date published 23 poetry collections, six volumes of selected and complete poems, six scripts for radio and theatre, and 25 books of essays and literary criticism. He has also edited seven anthologies. And all of this acitvity is in addition to his day job as a college professor in English literature. Born in Kobe in 1931, he is 86 years old today and still writing.
Yasumizu's activities are broad-ranging and diverse, but for many people, and especially for those in Kobe, he is the poet of the iconic earthquake that struck the area on January 17, 1995 and caused more than 6,000 casualties and devastating damage. At the time he lived in the city's Nagata ward, one of the hardest-hit areas, and his own residence was destroyed. On January 25, ten days after the shock, he published the first of his earthquake poems in the Asahi Shinbun newspaper. Since then, it has become his lifework, a project that continues to this day, to "capture the feelings in the disaster areas with words", as in the plaintive IS THAT A HUMAN VOICE?: "The sound that is thin and muffled./ We can hear it. It is there./ Now it's gone."
Yasumizu has also lent his voice to poets from Kobe and surrounding areas such as Iku Takenaka, Ono Tōzaburō, and Heiichi Sugiyama, by writing biographical essays abut them. And he has edited such books as Poets in Kobe and Poets in Hyōgo (a prefecture to which Kobe belongs) creatng historical archives for local poets. People remember Yasumizu with a huge tape recorder hanging from his shoulder visiting and interviewing those poets, at the same time that he had many teaching and magazine editing duties.
There are many poets living in Tokyo but few may be said to represent the city. Likewise, there are many poets in smaller cities and towns, but few enjoy readership beyond their region. Toshikazu Yasumizu is one of the few privileged to both represent his city and become recognized throughout the country. He is deeply rooted in Kobe and has placed his poetry in service to its people. It is through this dedication to one locality that Yasumizu's poetry has attained universality.
Sonzai no tame no uta (Song for Being) 1955
Noto, Tokyo, Kumo Shuppansha 1962
Hana matsuri (Flower Festival), Tokyo, Kumo Shuppansha 1964
Yatte kuru mono (He who comes), Tokyo, Kumo Shuppansha 1966
Yasumizu Toshikazu Sishū (Collected Poems) Tokyo, Shichosha 1969
Kobe no shijin tachi ― Sengo-shi Shūsei (Poets in Kobe―Post War Poems Anthology) Co-edited with Masahisa Kimimoto, Kobe, Kobe Newspaper Publication Center 1984
Hyōgo no shinjin tachi ―Meiji, Taishō, Shōwa-shi Shūsei (Poets in Hyōgo―Anthology of poems from Meiji, Taishō, and Shōwa era) Co-edited with Masahisa Kimimoto, Kobe, Kobe Newspaper Publication Center 1985
Takenaka Iku ― Shijin-san no koe (Iku Takenaka ― Voices of Mr. Poet) Osaka, Henshūkōbō Noah 2004
Ono Tōzaburō―Uta towa gyaku ni uta (Singing contrary to singing) Osaka, Henshūkōbō Noah 2005
Sugiyama Heiichi ―Ao o mezashite (Going After Blue) Osaka, Henshūkōbō Noah 2010