Poets from Japan




Koichi  Yakushigawa


The face


I have been told

you have to be responsible

to your own face.

Face could not hide anything behind.

Everything is discovered on the face.

What an ugly face mine is!

Compared with mine,

what a serene face yours is.




You are ever still,

hiding the power

within the stillness.

You are ever self-possessed.

Yes, self-possession is this!

I have lived for eighty years.

It would be impossible

for me to reach

the stage of this face

being alive for more years.








Why smile?


While the other hundreds Rakans

meditating with hard face,

you are alone

with your eyes downcast,

seemingly smiling.

What is the half-smile?

Is it a scornful smile?

Or a self-scorn?

Are you doubting it meaningless

to keep sitting on the rock?

Mysterious is your smile.

It’s muddling up my heart.

How to keep myself?

Are you mocking me?

Stop it

scowl me.

Shout down.

Why smile!?


from the book SPEAKING TO STONE BUDDHA, 2009



Kiyoko Ogawa




Ogawa: (Our guest Prof. Armagan Cengiz Büker is a Turkish poet and scholar born in 1942 in Istanbul. His speciality is Spanish literature and linguistics).

Well, please allow me to call you Arma’n. It is really a great honour to have you as our first guest poet to be interviewed for “Poetry Nippon”.

First of all, can you tell us something about your motherland where you were born. For us Japanese Turkey is a country geographically not too far, but spiritually quite remote. On top of that, Turkey seems to work as sort of crossroad between East and West. How do you think this idiosyncrasy affects/affected the mentality and culture of your people?


Büker: I am really thankful for your kindness of taking me for interview in your magazine. It is indeed a great honour for me.

Well, I personally belong to an extinct species of the original citizens of Istanbul (Istanbullu), with their special peculiarities of character and manners; that is, I was born in Istanbul from a free-trading father of the same city.

Japan, for us Turks, is one of the admired and beloved countries. Turkish people have always been curious about Japan for several reasons. First, because Japan is a far away exotic country. Secondly because we are interested in different ways of living of its people. We think they are different and almost mysterious. They look proud and noble thanks to the Samurai stories and movies, and also because of the Zen Buddhism books. We think their Kimono and other original styles of garment are really interesting.

But not only this, we are also interested in, for us different and original Japanese mentality. We think the Japanese have adapted  themselves  very quickly to modern technology,   while they have been bravely keeping carefully and fastidiously their own heritage and their own traditions. For us courage, bravery and pride are very important. That is why, I think, Turks look at Japanese with respect and with admiration.

Turkey and Istanbul especially, is indeed a real crossroad not only between East and West, but also between North and South. Turkey’s situation is quite special. Istanbul of today, the contemporary town divided into three parts by water-ways called Bosphorus and Golden Horn (Haliç) is just in the middle of the four directions. Two parts of the City belong to Europe, one a classical European metropolis and one an antique Byzantine museum mingled with the original Asiatic Turkish character. And the third part is a gate to the so-called  Anatolian civilisations of thousands of years.

A real mixture of human history, a cradle of civilisations and a real open-air museum. Of course, for the eyes of who knows how to look and what to see.

Many a war, invasion and conquest, the mixing of many a race, tradition and  different way of believing and mentality ... make a very special and unique idiosyncrasy of high tolerance and a happy coexistence of varieties, kind of successful exemplary symbiosis.

The Turks still do not know racism nor discrimination, in spite of actual cruel and violent imperialistic pressure of the global powers with the aim of creating interior hostilities within the country.


O: I see. Especially I admire your keyword “symbiosis”. Next, will you please go on to elaborate on the deeper mentality of the Turkish people?


B: Sure. The Turks,  or better called the Turkish soul is a mixture of East and West. We are as kind of people, maybe somewhat still nomadic at heart, going from east to west. Our Turkish history, as I personally believe, going at least sixteen thousands of years back in the past towards the endless future, is a legend of migration. In the authentic Turkish psyche there lies the deep mysterious  eastern  spiritualism and the most modern avant-garde follies of modernism. The Turkish nation is very adaptable to the modern and to the rational. There are quite a number of Turkish people today doing business in every part of the world with the same compatibility.

Recently I made a book of translation from Spanish and English sources of Dhammapada, in which I maintained that one of the various religions of the Turks in history was Buddhism, and therefore there is strong influence of Buddhism in our thinkings. Recent researchers, however, conclude that there has been no trace of Buddhism found in the Mediterranean area.

Turkish roots are obviously Asian, not Mediterranean, but Turkey of today is accepted as a Mediterranean country. As you see, it is always paradoxical with us. It is not easy to understand folks. True, Turks are in Europe and they are the very maker of it. But they’ve also been bringing the Eastern riches, both materialistic and spiritual, to the West. This is the very mission of my nation; elevating the nivel  (level) of humanity.


O: Arma’n, many thanks for your lecture on the complexity and nobility of the Turkish mentality. By the way, I have read only several poems of yours translated by Prof. Yakushigawa on the internet. Among these I was much interested in the subject of silence and felt your sensitivity seems to be somewhat oriental and close to ours. Especially your insight on silence leads me to believe it may play an essential role when we try to be in one with universe. So please describe your idea of silence.


B: Silence ... a difficult theme that would need quite a long explanation. Maybe a special study could be made over this matter. Temporarily, just allow me to tell you that if in the world we had some genuine silence, we would be much more civilised and much more peaceful.


O: “Silence” reminds me, for example, of my favourite writer Samuel Becket’s plays, which belong to the Occidental culture. At  the  same  time,   silence  plays  an  integral  part  in  our  Zen Meditation, the core of which is nothingness. And Ignatius de Loyola wrote “The Spiritual Exercises”. Considering these, I came to feel what is indispensable for prayer regardless of any institutionalised religions may be songs (poetry) and silence among others.

So will you please give us some comment on spiritualism from the viewpoint of someone who is living in an Islamic culture?


B: Islamic culture ... well, personally, I take religion and every kind of spiritual ways all over the world as various paths leading to the same searched andyearned spiritual values, which for me give even more worth to the world and humanity. Anyway, I am highly interested in Zen thought and Zen Meditation and we had made a lot of talking about it with Prof Yakushigawa in Malaga. I think it is a magic key to open the locked Western mind ..., but as he told me, it takes a long way to realise and understand it.

As for the Jesuit way of believing and living, just like many other Christian, Muslim and Anatolian mystic Orders, they are kind of forgotten and distorted, as seen in many forms of Buddhism in different places of the world.

So now let’s think about the Rumi (Mevlevi/Mavlana) Path, which says, “Come, what you be, how you be, come; be you Christian, be you Muslim, be you fir-worshipper, be you irreligious, come; had you come thousand times and returned astray thousand times, come; this way is not a way of hopelessness”. Rumi also thought like you, Kiyoko, and performed the Way with music. But nowadays it is just tourist-show only ... unfortunately.


O: Listening to your story, I got the impression that you’re quite a free-thinker and a little sceptical about dogmatic religions.

Speaking of poetry, I have hardly read modern Turkish literature, to be honest.

But as I personally write on the World Literature in a monthly magazine, I happened to write an article on Nazim Hikmet Ran a   year   ago.    He  was   harshly  persecuted  by  his  motherland because he was a communist. Any political idea is absolutely not what I intend to discuss and the anti-communistic movement occurred also in pre-War Japan.

Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the intensity and beauty of the poetic messages Hikmet left for us. Unless you don’t feel like doing so, could you please give us a short talk on poet Hikmet and the modern Turkish literature?


B: Oh, please, let me have an idea of your Japanese translation of Nazim Hikmet. His poetry no more belongs to the modern Turkish literature, because, I think, he is rather a classic now.

Yes, sure, he was harshly and unjustly persecuted by some government authorities because he was a socialist. He was lucky he escaped to Moscow; many others were legally, illegally and treacherously executed. That’s because it was a cold-war time; and the world had been divided in two parts, and on both sides there was only one truth and no freedom of thought. I also wouldn’t like to discuss any political ideas, but Nazim Hikmet is a universal poet and his tragedy is a universal history.

We can now only hope that we should see no more tragedies of this kind. No more poets and no more journalists persecuted, interrogated or killed!!! But the humanity is not yet as mature as to live tolerance and freedom in its fullness.

We have to add that the artists and writers and scientists must always be objective and never tell lies...


O: Yes, and we should not look away from the fact that the persecutions of poets are still happening all over the world.

Here is the last question to go. I heard that you are a professor of Spanish literature/linguistics at University of Istanbul. I’ve always been interested in how literary research and writing poetry can be compatible with each other. For scholarship requires analyses, whereas creating art calls for sensibility. It seems knowledge and reason sometimes spoil art. How do you balance these two precious but different things in your daily life?


B: Yes, it is true, but it is just partly true ... because I do no more teaching job officially. I am retired, a pensioner ... as I told before. I still feel young ... but somehow managed to deceive the years and get retired in my youth (Joke).

Oh, you’re right ... as long as literature be a science. But I think literary research is not much different from philosophy ... which is just the very poetry in itself. What do you think? Art ... or poetry ... is human. And the Human has two brain section, right and left. They say the two brain parts work differently, but according to my opinion, they just work interactively and exchange duties reciprocally. And a real Path for me to unite the human existence is Love... And Love works on both sides of the crevice.


O: So I believe our common goal is to seek after a “crevice”, through which we may envisage a Path of truth. Dear Arma’n, thank you very much indeed for this culturally interesting and stimulating talk, which gave us a vivid sense of “crossroad”.




From POETRY NIPPON, Third  Series Edition 1, October 2010

Please, take a look at page 187 where there is a poem from Arma’n to Kiyoko, in relation to this interview.




Kiyoko reading a paper                       Arma’n interviewed in Radio VOZ

in the 9th  CIELE-ICWEL, 2009            during the 5th  CIELE-ICWEL, 2005


International Convention of Writers




Takashi Arima


A BeautifulView

In the past few days, colours of trees

on western mountains have grown deeper.

After a critical operation, my wife, in a private room,

looks to the window, wearing no make-up,

uneasy about her bed’s alignment with the pillow to the north.


A flock of gulls return here each day again this year.

When the sun rises above Mt. Nyoigatake with its “dai” character,,

they, in formation, fly over from Lake Biwa

and descend upon the Takano River, their daytime habitat.


My wife, dozing off,

undergoes the morning examination by her doctor,

lies awake while a nurse changes intravenous injections.

Unable to take any food

she dozes off again

through long afternoon hours.


When the setting sun is reflected on the south building,

the flock of gulls soars skyward

like a tornado.

Having finished their day’s work, leaving no stragglers,

they go home, filling the sky over Mt. Hiei.



*According to a Japanese superstition, it is inauspicious for the pillow to be at the north end of one’s bed.

*Every summer, long chains of bonfires are lit on Mt. Nyoigatake in Kyoto, forming the Chinese character “dai ” meaning  “big”.



The poem of Takashi Arima in its Japanese version