The Robots: A Narrative Scifaiku

Amase Hiroyasu

Edited by Alzo David-West; Translated by Natsumi Ando




guardian spirits
formed of clay—

a clockmaker’s
mole-cricket chirps

the people of edo
carved gears
out of wood

made mechanical
their noses in the air

they put a resistor
into a circuit and
made it resistant

and now,
the industrial robots
have been born

endless desires
drunk on dreams of
perpetual motion machines

the ages of
the iron race
are coming fast

human beings
overcome by
electronic brains

the robots
cannot take over

time versus
time machine

ruins only,
where pilotless tanks

goremu to
iu sunasei no

tokeiya no
okera naku

edo no hito
ki de haguruma o

pinokio no
karakuri dekite
hana takashi

teikou o
kairo ni irete

gendai wa
sangyo robo o
tsuini umu

yoku hatezu
eikyukikan no
yume ni you

yagate kishi
tetsujin tachi no
seiki kana

ningen wa
denshizunou ni

robotto wa
subete daikou
kanou naramu

jikan tai
urutoraman no

haikyo nomi
mujinsensha no



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. . The audio recordings are by  Mark Weitzman (English) and Kosuke (Japanese).

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