October Object of the Month Blog

Poetry and photography by Yoshito Matsushige

Thursday 6th October 2016 is National Poetry Day, “the annual mass celebration of poetry and all things poetical.”  It is an initiative of the Forward Arts Foundation, a charity that celebrates excellence in poetry and widens its audience.  Bringing together leading poetry, literacy and literary organisations around a shared purpose: promoting the enjoyment, discovery and sharing of poetry.

National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart, and has engaged millions of people across the country reading, writing and listening to poetry. From 1999 onwards, National Poetry Day has been loosely themed to kick start inspiration.  The theme for this year’s national poetry day is ‘messages’.

We have a selection of peace related poetry in our collection, including this month’s object of the month a poem entitled Finder Fogged with Tears.

 

I returned to Miyuki Bridge

But could not snap the shutter of my camera

Faint cries asking for help and water

An infant clinging to the breast of his mother who was too weak to move

A mother holding her baby in her arms, cried madly

“Open your eyes! Open your eyes!”

It was nothing but hell

The scene I saw through the finder disappeared

As the tears streamed down my face

 

The author of the poem and the photo is by Yoshito Matsushige.  Yoshito Matsushige was a Japanese photojournalist who survived the dropping of the atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and took five photographs on the day of the bombing in Hiroshima, the only photographs taken that day within Hiroshima that are known.

Yoshito Matsushige was barely out of this radius at a little over 1.6-miles from the ground zero, but he was not seriously injured by the blast. Sickened by what he saw, he initially could not take any pictures of the suffering and carnage.  When he did take 24 exposures, (only seven came out right) he could not develop them for many days. The Hiroshima Peace Institute has a transcript of Matsushige’s testimony regarding his photos.  It includes these words:

“There I saw a crowd of people whose burned skin was slithering off them.  As time went by, the street filled with more and more people so hideously injured that even their gender was unclear.  A policeman punched a hole in a can of oil brought from the Ujina Police Station and applied the liquid to the victims’ burns.  What did these people at death’s door think of me as I recorded this scene in photographs without lending a hand to the many fighting for life.  Sensing that hundreds saw me as a coldhearted, uncompassionate wretch, it was all I could do to click the shutter twice.”…

“I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears…”

Although, its significance may not have been realised at the time, Yoshito Matsushige’s photography and poetry has provided a unique and valuable insight into the horrors of that fateful day in 1945;  providing a message to future generations of the devastating consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.

 

Written By Sarah Bartey

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