Giving People Poems

In Japan, where even the imperial couple is required to compose poems as part of their official functions, it is not surprising that there is a long tradition of purely perfunctory poetry. Nonetheless, Japan's most popular living poet, Shuntaro Tanikawa, has always been known for upsetting the apple carts of Japan's formulaic society. Here, he does it again, sacralizing poetry in its purely perfunctory forms as a gift that may be appropriate for any occasion. Lifting occasional poetry to a higher plane, here are poems about hunger and books, the recently constructed longest bridge in Japan, cherry blossoms, two dead friends, Mozart and weeds, making love to various women, various observations on cats, and diving into a swimming pool to wash off the lies of the world.