Kaneko Misuzu

Kaneko Misuzu (née Teru) was born on 11 April, 1903, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Her hometown of Senzaki was a fishing village, overlooking the Sea of Japan. At the time when Teru was growing up the town was alive with the stir and bustle of fishermen, and sometimes the entire town would assist the fishing fleet in bringing ashore a large haul. 

In 1924, Kaneko Teru (‘Kaneko’ is the family and ‘Teru’ the given name) adopted the pen name ‘Misuzu’ and sent her first poems to magazines such as Golden Star (Kin no Hoshi), Stories for Children (Dowa) and Housewives’ Club (Fujin Kurabu). 

In 1927 she entered into an arranged marriage, which proved unhappy for her. Her husband forbade her to write poetry or continue correspondence with her friends and associates from the magazines. She found consolation, however, in her baby daughter.

Her husband brought her further unhappiness by spending long periods away from home, frequenting the pleasure quarters, and even passing on to her a disease he had caught there. In 1930, she asked for a divorce with the single condition that she could keep her daughter. Her husband agreed, but soon changed his mind about custody of the child.

As a divorced woman, at that time, Teru had no legal rights to the child. When her husband asked for custody and eventually said he was coming in person to take the child, Teru felt that her only recourse was a protest suicide. She asked, in one note, for her mother to look after the child, and in another she asked her husband to allow this. On 9 March, 1930, she took an overdose. She was twenty-six years old.

Although popular in her lifetime, and compared by one enthusiastic editor to Christina Rossetti, after her death she was forgotten until her recent rediscovery in Japan about ten years ago. Her cosmic view of nature has a new resonance in the 21st Century with the growing awareness of the importance of the environment beyond its immediate utility and of the interconnectedness of things.

-from Quentin Crisp’s introduction in MPT Series 3/5 Transgressions