Shoda Shinoe

Monument to Shoda Shinoe at Hiroshima
Japanese poet Shoda Shinoe was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1910.  She was exposed to the atomic bomb dropped on that city in 1945, and died of breast cancer 20 years later in 1965.  Two of her tankas, short Japanese poems, tell of the sorrow of a mother whose memory is engulfed in the disaster brought on by the bomb. 

Tanka (I)

In madness
a woman cries
“I left my child in the flames.
Now all I have
is my own life.”


Tanka (II)

I wonder
if there is an operation
that removes memories.
Where is a cure
for my pain-filled heart?

Questions for Reflection: “Tanka (I)” and “Tanka (II)” 

  1. In “Tanka (I)” how would you depict the state of mind of the woman in whose voice the poem is written? Why might she be feeling as she does? What would be your feelings if this poem represented an event that happened to you? 
  2. How might making a wish as that expressed in “Tanka (II)” be helpful in dealing with the sorrow experienced by the poet?
  3. What strikes you the most about these two poems?