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俵 万智

"Kono aji ga
ii ne" to kimi ga
itta kara
shichigatsu rokka wa
sarada kinembi

You said "This flavor is so good", so July sixth is our salad anniversary.

Tawara Machi, born in Osaka, schooled in Fukui and at Waseda University, leads a new generation of tanka poets in Japan. Born in 1962, she entered Waseda in 1981, and met who was said to be Japan's last great waka master, the aging Sasaki Yukitsuna, becoming one of the editors of his literary magazine, Flowers of the Heart ("Kokoro no hana"). After graduating in 1985, she moved to Kanagawa and became a senior high school teacher, while continuing to write poetry in her spare time.

What differentiated Tawara from her predecessors was that she wrote her poems in kogo, a form of Japanese usually only used for prose, and the form learned by virtually all foreign students of the language. Waka had always been written in the classical, intricate form of Japanese called bungo. When Tawara did use bungo words, she would always juxtapose them with pop culture references and healthy doses of gairaigo. In 1986, literary critics began to pick up on the literary scope of what she was doing, and awarded her the Kadokawa Tanka Award for her fifty-poem anthology Morning in August ("Hachigatsu no asa").

The following year, she published her first professional anthology, Salad Anniversary ("Sarada kinembi"), named for the memorable poem above. It went on to sell two and a half million copies: something unheard of for any poetry volume in Japan. The "kogo tanka boom" that followed made Tawara a mass media sensation: Salad Anniversary was made into two TV shows and a feature film. Kodansha published an English translation in 1989, the same year that Tawara left her teaching position to write full-time.

Since then, she has published two more anthologies: Palm of the Wind's Hand ("Kaze no te no hira," 1992) and Chocolate Revolution ("Chokorêto kakumei," 1997). She has also written for the Asahi Shimbun and Bungei Shunju, and has published a collection of poems that her fans have sent her.

Surprisingly enough, even though almost all of her poems are love poems, she's single.

Her official web site is at http://gtpweb.net/twr/.

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