The Robots: A Narrative Scifaiku
Edited by Alzo David-West; Translated by Natsumi Ando
formed of clay—
the people of edo
they put a resistor
the ages of
iu sunasei no
edo no hito
Amase Hiroyasu (Author: penname of Susumu Watanabe, b. 1931) is a writer, critic, and physician from Hiroshima, Japan. His works in Japanese include After Fifty Years of Anti-Nuclear War (1998), The Literary Space of Kajiyama Toshiyuki (2009), A Dream of the Past Is Still a Dream (2010), Robots (2013), and Science-Fiction/Science-Fantasy Haiku (2016).
Alzo David-West (Editor) is a writer, poet, and academic. He is published in the areas aesthetics, language, literature, philosophy, politics, and social psychology. His creative writing appears in Antimatter, Cha, Eastlit, Missing Slate, Offcourse, Step Away Magazine, Tower Journal, and Transnational Literature.
Natsumi Ando (Translator) is a freelance Japanese<>English translator. She majored in foreign studies with a specialization in English at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan. Her translation interests include poetry, literature, graphic novels, and comics. She is the translator of several edited scifaiku in Star*Line.
Translator’s Note: When I was first commissioned to select and translate works of Japanese science-fiction poetry, I actually did not know such a genre existed in Japan. Nevertheless, the project sounded interesting to me since I am a reader of science-fiction novels and comics. I searched for science-fiction poems written in Japanese. Eventually, I found the anthology Science-Fiction/Science-Fantasy Haiku (Esuefu-kagaku fantajī kushū, 2016) edited by Hiroyasu Amase. After I contacted the editor for permission to translate some of his poems, he kindly sent me more of his work, including a grouped haiku series about robots.
As I read the haiku series, I found it quite different from traditional one-line nature haiku. Amase told a fictional past and future history about robots in linked-verse haiku form. I was compelled to select and translate the work. After I submitted my translation to the project editor, Alzo David-West, I realized my draft was too descriptive. Alzo edited the title and incorporated poetic effects that gave my translation and transliteration more literary presence. I thought the edits worked, and I approved them.
“The Robots: A Narrative Scifaiku” was first published as “Grouped Haiku on the Subject of Robots” (Robotto ga shudai no gun saku) in the 2014 issue of Tanshes-f. Hiroyasu Amase’s poem is appearing in English for the first time.
— Natsumi Ando
Editor’s Note: The poem reminded me of the movie Terminator, which prompted this image from the Lifeboat Foundation associated with an article on a futuristic robot take over. https://lifeboat.com/blog/2015/12/russia-china-building-robot-army . The audio recordings are by Mark Weitzman (English) and Kosuke (Japanese).