Review: Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko, by David Jacobson


After the 2011 tsunami, TV commercials were, out of respect, replaced with public service messages. One was the following poem:

If I say, “Let’s play?”

you say, “Let’s play!”

If I say, “Stupid!”

you say, “Stupid!”

If I say, “I don’t want to play anymore,”

you say, “I don’t want to play anymore.”

And then, after a while,

becoming lonely

I say, “Sorry.”

You say, “Sorry.”

Are you just an echo?

No, you are everyone.

The poem, by pre-War children’s poet Kaneko Misuzu, the pen-name of Kaneko Teru, created echoes of sympathy and hope of its own at a time when they could hardly have been more needed. Well-known and famous in her time, her work was largely forgotten until rediscovered a half-century after her death in 1930.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is combined biography and poetry book for children. Fully, and charmingly, illustrated, it tells the story of the writer’s sadly truncated life and includes a selection of her work in new translations. Read more