Poet at Age 92

I enjoy reading about other people’s second acts, especially those of wordsmiths. I file away these stories and retell them whenever friends and  acquaintances start moaning about being too old to write a book, start an exercise regimen, apply for a new job or get out of their comfort zones.

The story of best-selling Japanese poet Toyo Shibata is one of my favorites.

At age 92, Shibata’s back gave out and she was forced to give up classical Japanese dance. Her son suggested she try another art form, one that would be easier on the back. So, Shibata decided to spend her evenings writing poetry. Encouraged by the publication of her first poem in a newspaper, she continued writing until she had enough poems to fill a book.

At age 99, Shibata self-published an anthology entitled Kujikenaide which can be translated into Don’t Be Too Frustrated, a mantra for the feisty nonagenarian. Since its publication in 2009, the book has sold over 1.5 million copies. An extraordinary achievement in a country where poetry is a tough sell and a book is considered a success if it sells 10,000 copies.

Unfortunately, her poems haven’t yet been translated. According to the reviewers, she addresses simple themes and writes mainly about her family and her caregivers. In one poem, however, she wrote a steamy passage about her doctor.

She is working on a second book which she plans to release on her 100th birthday.

Inspiring quotes from Toyo Shibata…

  • Although 98, I still fall in love. I do have dreams; one like riding on a cloud.
  • Everyone is equally free to dream.
  • A flower bloomed from a century-old tree, and it’s all because of your support. Now I have a souvenir to bring to the after-world and boast about it to my husband and my mother out there.
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