Blue porcelain crow,
on the make with your oohs and ohs –
Reeling with hatchling warmth.
Your big bill and eyes: a grifter’s smile.
Go ahead, eat the silence of this hush.
Notes on this poem
Takuji Ōte (1887–1934) was born to an inn-keeping family in rural Gunma Prefecture. While he published in some of the leading journals of the day, his reputation as a pioneer of Japanese symbolism is largely posthumous. As prolific as he was (with an output totaling some 2,400 poems), he published no collections during his lifetime. ‘Porcelain Crow’ comes from his first posthumous collection, Aiiro-no Hiki (Indigo Toad), which was compiled by his close friend, the artist Henmi Takashi, in 1936. Ōte’s symbolist poetics, informed by the likes of Baudelaire and Samain, have attracted both Jungian interpretations and charges of obscurantism. From the standpoint of representation, ‘Porcelain Crow’ is indeed obscure. But as Utsumi Noriko has argued, this may be precisely where the greatest value of Ōte’s work lies: in emphasising the signifier over the signified, he reaffirmed the importance of the materiality of words in creating affect and mood.