Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday


World Languages and Literatures

Document Type




Only Yesterday is a masterpiece by Mutsuo Takahashi, one of Japan's eminent and essential poets. In 2018, soon after Mutsuo Takahashi turned eighty, he published his magnum opus, a collection of poetry entitled Only Yesterday, a work containing 153 poems that showcase the poet's enormous erudition as he revisits the themes he has explored for the last five decades: the nature of beauty, love, homoerotic desire, art, and aging. At the same time, it also includes numerous socially engaged poems inspired by contemporary problems, such as exploitation of the nameless masses and the culture of hero worship. What makes this collection so is that even when talking about contemporary issues, Takahashi weaves into all poems motifs and ideas borrowed from ancient Greek culture, so that Greece serves as the lens through which Takahashi--a lifelong scholar of both modern poetry and classical literature--views the world, even as he writes in an elegant blend of classical and modern Japanese. The result is a dazzling piece of world literature that bridges East and West, new and ancient, all within a witty, idiosyncratic collection that's been translated beautifully by acclaimed translator Jeffrey Angles, whose work earned this book a grant from Japan Foundation. "This collection of poetry is like a sea filled with islands. The sounds of the surging waves of the Japanese language carry us toward the many facets of Greece that Takahashi holds so dear. In the poetic dreams which pass before our eyes one after another, we gaze at leisure upon its landscapes."--Mimi Hachikai, author of The Quickening Field "The most apt metaphor to describe Takahashi's poetic production is the performance of a tightrope walker. With great care and indescribable pleasure, he skillfully crosses the taut rope connecting the vulgar and the sacred, poetic form and free verse, as well as Japanese verse and ancient poetry."--Hisaki Matsuura, (author of Triangle and Le calligraphe) "The god of poetry does descend to us from time to time--that's what I thought as I read this collection of poetry... It is filled with deep emotion and feeling, knowledge and educated culture, and beyond that, the shadow of ideology. Yet what drives the production of Takahashi's poetry is his wit."--Natsuki Ikezawa, author of Still Lives and A Burden of Flowers Poetry, History, Asian & Asian American Studies, LGBTQ+ Studies.



Publication Date



Japanese Studies | Language Interpretation and Translation | Poetry


Jeffrey Angles, translator.

Only Yesterday