Object 1: Japanese Poem “wara”
May 26, 2021
My first object is a poem written in Japanese called “Wara” which is translated as “straw”. This poem was written by Ishigaki Rin, a Japanese poet in 1952. This poem is about a person in the cafeteria listening to music and expressing how ‘friendly’ the music feels using exaggerated metaphors. This poem uses many literary devices which creates a problem when translating to English.
This poem is interesting for this exhibition, since the usage of literary devices which was meant to make the poem unique has made a language barrier. This poem raises a challenge for the non- Japanese speaking people to understand this poem fully since there are some proverbs/metaphors that only exist in Japanese. For example, the line “sadness that squeezes the chest” is a common proverb in Japanese, which means “it is too sad that you could even feel pain in the chest”. However, in English without
context, it sounds rather disturbing, when in Japanese, it sounds artistic. When the literary devices are taken away from the poem, it becomes a whole new work and it ends up just summarising the poem. Therefore, the language barrier is a challenge raised by the communication of knowledge.
Another way this poem suits well for this exhibition is that even if this author has a meaningful message she is trying to share, not everyone may interpret it the right way. This poem includes many indirect messages written using literary devices. For example, one of the lines is translated as “I can imagine the researcher finding out that letting the cow listen to the music improves the udder”. It sounds absurd, but it is indirectly trying to say that this music is really good, that they can imagine why cow’s milk would taste better after listening to music since it’s good enough to improve its mental well-being. Some people reading this poem may not understand why the author suddenly brought up researchers and cows and may interpret the meaning of this poem as something entirely different. Even if the reader can read the poem, this indirectly written message is a challenge raised by communication of knowledge.