What we have here is a poetic anthology edited and published in March 1981 by the コロニア万葉集刊行委員会 Koronia Man’yôshû Kankô Iinkai “Committee for the Publication of the Colônia Man’yôshû”. In 332 pages it collects some 6634 (!) tanka and haiku by the community of Japanese-Brazilian immigrants. The poems came from local newspapers and periodicals, as well as 私歌集 “private poetry collections”, and regardless of the outward form, the poetry is mostly of a rural, earthbound feeling. The only thematic structure is a temporal division between “before [and during] the War”, senzen 戦前、 and after, sengo 戦後—I think that, psychologically, the end of the War meant the definitive end of any (already fading) hope of returning to Japan, of a gentler true home. The book also includes a short appendix on the history of immigrant poetry and of the anthology itself, plus a glossary of コロニア慣用語 Koronia kan’yôgo “idioms of the immigrant community”—essentially a Portuguese-Japanese glossary in katakana, Portuguese being for koronia-go what English became for modern standard Japanese. (Koronia-go refers to the dying Brazilian dialect, a prewar, rural MSJ sprinkled with Portuguese roots—chave wo trouxe shimashita ka? “did you bring the key?”. Some people call it batchanese, on virtue of it only being spoken by their batchan “grandmas”. The poetry, however, is mostly literary Japanese with some well-behaved Portuguese loanwords for local effect.)
Here’s a half-dozen poems selected more or less at random, with very clumsy attempts at translation:
Before the War
Ie-soba no Kodachi ni ki-naku Binchibii no Koe tooru nari Asa no Shijima ni (Abe Eiko?)
it came to sing
in the grove
next to my house—
the bem-te-vi cry goes on
into the morning silence.
Pitangus sulphuratus has a very wakaish name in Brazil; its distinctive cry is thought to say bem-te-vi, something like “darling, I see you”. I don’t know why the poet chose to render it as binchibii instead of benchibii—I don’t think we usually lower that /ẽ/ in bem, thought it might be a dialect issue. Ki-naku “comes and sings” is a poetic expression used in the actual Man’yôshû, where it refers to the hototogisu. Grove-islands of trees are a typical feature breaking the monotony of Brazilian farming hills.
Ninpura wa Koto mo nage ni Tomo no Hitsugi wo ume-owarite Tabako sui-ori (Ikuta Shizuo?)
having finished burying
their friend’s coffin
are smoking cigars
The poem only says “smoking” but I like to picture straw cigars here.
Gonen shite kaeru to iishi Kokyô ni Rampu no Hikari de kaku Fumi niburu (Yamamoto Misao)
after five years
I’ll be back—
the letter I write home
A quintessential koronia tanka. The poet uses English rampu for “lamp”, not Portuguese ranpada or something.
After the War
Yûdachi no sugitaru Ato no Kaze taete Aoba Akari ni Ha-ari tobikau (Masaki Shisui)
after the wind that remains
after a sudden evening shower
flying ants fluttering by the glow
of new leaves
I’m not sure if aoba-akari is supposed to mean something other than the literal meaning.
Oto tatete moeru Mimei no Kamado-hen ni Tabidatsu Otto ni Kafê susumuru (Hotta Ryôko?)
by the stove
burning and crackling in early dawn,
my husband’s about
to leave on a trip:
a cup of coffee will go well.
This one might be beyond my level—for one thing, the reading I provided is too long (too many moræ), and I’m not sure this is what she means by “kafê susumu”. It’s no surprise the poet uses the local word for coffee, given its economic importance; farmers from Japan quickly became coffee drinkers, like everyone else here.
Botekin no Aruji no Koshi no Kenjû ga mijirogu-tabi ni nibuku hikareri (Watanabe Masako)
Whenever the pistol
in the waist of the owner
of the pub moves,
I’m having trouble rendering botequim in English. In a countryside Brazilian context, it has none of the glamour of “bar” or “pub”. Think rather of an earthly, coarse working-class place next corner, open from early morning to late night, tolerating all kinds of people to feed their various vices: children buying overly sweet candy, alcoholic bums having their cachaça, philanderers cheating on wives, gamblers loudly playing truco.
Corrections welcomed as usual.