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#67 Poet becomes bestselling author at 99

Photo of Toyo Shibata

Photo of Toyo Shibata from YouTube video (in Japanese). Click on the photograph to view the video.

Here I am approaching my 65th birthday, and I still haven’t written a bestseller. Thanks to Toyo Shibata, I know there’s hope for me yet.

At 92 Shibata had to give up classical dancing. She needed an outlet for her creative energy. Her son suggested poetry. She began penning poems, and when a newspaper published one, she was fired up.

Her story hit the international media in January 2011. By that time her first anthology, Kujikenaide (Don’t Be Too Frustrated or Don’t Lose Heart), had sold 1.5 million copies.

The book started out as a self-published title. Given the challenges of finding a publisher for anything (and poetry?!!), that should give all writers hope. Publisher Asuka Shinsha only picked it up when sales soared.

In his article for Huffington Post, John Lundberg writes the book “has struck a chord with a Japanese public tired of two decades of recession and thirsting for the wisdom of experience”.

We’re all thirsting for wisdom, along with meaning and hope. I’ll be watching for Shibata’s book to appear in translation. And I’ll keep writing.

You can listen to Toyo Shibata reading the title poem in a YouTube video (and find a rough translation here).

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