The Chieko Poems

The major influence and subject of Takamura's work was Naganuma Cheiko, an early member of the feminist movement Seitosha. They were married in 1914 and modeled their relationship on sexual equality. For instance, they shared the housework, and Chieko had her own art studio. For a number of years, they lived quite happily in poverty. In 1931, however, Cheiko began to develop signs of schizophrenia. Her condition worsened, and in 1932 she attempted suicide. Often showing violence toward Kotaro and their neighbors, Cheiko was institutionalized at the Jameszaka Hopsital in 1935. She died there of tuberculosis in 1938.

With the death of his wife, Takamura began to question certain of his more Western values, and came to develop a sort of love-hate relationship with the West, writing a nationalistic poetry during Word War II, for which he came under condemnation after Japan's defeat.

The poems in this volume, however, are touching portraits of his wife and his life together from the time of their courtship until some years after her death. Their subjects are some of the greatest in literature: love, isolation, loss, and nature, as well as the relationship of the individual to society and the natural world.