Takashi HIRAIDE was born in Moji, Kitakyushu-shi, on the south side of the Kanmon channel, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1950.
While a student at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, he published The Bride Poems, a series of poems (April 1972), as well as a fundamental criticism of the current state of contemporary poetry (August 1972), in the famous poetry magazine Eureka. Just after graduation, he published his first collection of poems, The Inn (1976), a book which inspired a strong response from the readers of the 1970s, a sequence that began his career as one of the leading poets of Japan’s post-war generation.
In 1978, Hiraide gained employment as an editor at the old literary magazine Bungei at Kawadeshobo-shinsha. During this time, he continued to further develop his work in poetry and poetics. He was later awarded the Education Minister’s Art Encouragement Prize for Freshman for his second book of poems, For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut (1982).
Portraits of a Young Osteopath (1984) is his third book of poems, in which he incorporated a new method for introducing descriptions of natural science in poetry.
In 1985, he spent three months at the University of Iowa as a poet in residence for the International Writing Program. In 1987, he quit Kawadeshobo-shinsha and published Green Ray in My House, in a complex style of free verse, prose poem, and novel.
In 1990 he began teaching at Tama Art University, where he is now a professor of Poetics and Art Science as well as a core member of the new Institute for Art Anthropology.
In the past seventeen years, he has published, in addition to contemporary poetry, books of various genres and forms, including a book of ambiguous genre, which borders between poetry and essay (Notes for My Left-hand Diary, 1993; winner of Yomiuri Literary Award), a poetic book of letters addressed to a dead artist (Postcards to Donald Evans, 2001), a serial collection of traditional tanka and diary (One Hundred and Eleven Tankas to Mourn My Father, 2000), a novel of autobiography and surrealism (A Guest Cat, 2001; winner of Kiyama Shohei Literary Award), and several books of essays on art, travel and sports. In particular, Poetics of Baseball (1989) is not merely a book about the sport, but also uses the analogy of baseball to write about poetics itself.
In 1998 and 1999, Hiraide was a visiting scholar at the Berlin Free University, a year-long experience which produced his travelogue, The Berlin Moment (2002), following the traces of Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin and Paul Celan, for which he was awarded The Travel Writing Award.
He has also brought forth two volumes of work by Irako Seihaku (2003), which serve as not only a biography about the reclusive and prominent Japanese poet of the old Meiji-era, but also a critique on major problems of modern Japanese poetry, as well as a unique novel employing a special narration system reliving the unknown diary of the forgotten poet. This work has received the Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize and the Toson Shimazaki Memorial Award from Rekitei.
In addition, he has edited two large volumes of the Complete Works of Irako Seihaku (2003), after extensive research on the writings and life of the poet.
Hiraide sometimes works with book design for small poetry magazines and literary books such as The Complete Works of Irako Seihaku as well as his own Irako Seihaku, which received The Minister of Economy & Industry’s Prize, Book Design Concours in 2004.
He has written many articles of poetry criticism for the Kyodo News from 1985-1986, for the Mainichi Newspaper from 1987-1990, and for the Asahi Newspaper from 2000-2002. He has published four books of poetics, Future of Shipwreck (1982), At the Tip of Attack (1985), Doubt about Light (1992), Multiple-Way Street (2004)
In September of 2005, Hiraide was invited to Sprachsalz, the international literary festival in Hall, south Tirol of Austria, as a “godson” to Kenzaburo Oe, the Japanese Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Oe, who was a special guest for the festival, highly praised Hiraide’s writings for providing a new direction for prose within the field of poetry.
On a similar note, William Blake’s Bat (2004) is a book of short essays on his ordinary life about which the novelist Natsuki Ikezawa wrote, “I would like to evade calling these writings essays or stray notes or short pieces. It’s very beautiful, but readers cannot see where the contrivances for the beauty of these writings are. It’s perhaps concerned in his way of life, at least with his way of living.”
Hiraide is also the author of several books corresponding with outstanding artists, including Donald Evans along with On Kawara and Mitsuo Kano. He gave a lecture at the On Kawara exhibition at Kunstverein in Koeln in September of 1995. The lecture was translated into German and published as a text of On Kawara Erscheinen-Verschewinden (On Kawara Appearance-Disappearance) (Maly Verlag, Koeln, Germany, 1997). Mitsuo Kano has made a printed work called Serpentinata in colour intaglio, inspired by a critical poem by Hiraide. The work comes in its own box, including a print of the poem.
There are three complete books of Hiraide’s work in translation, Postcards to Donald Evans, translated into English by Tomoyuki Iino (Tibor de Nagy Editions, New York, USA, 2003) , Le Chat qui venait du ciel, translated into French by Elisabeth Suetsugu (Editions Philippe Picquier, France 2004), and For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut, translated into English by Sawako Nakayasu (New Directions, New York, U.S.A. 2008) which is a recipient of the 2009 Best Translated Book Awards for poetry. This award is the only prize of its kind to honor the best original works of international literature and poetry published in the U.S. over the past year.
There are other translations of his poems into English, German, French, Russian, Chinese and Korean that have appeared in anthologies and poetry magazines.
Hiraide currently lives in the west suburbs of Tokyo with a cat and his wife, the poet Michiyo Kawano. (English text by Sawako Nakayasu, 2007)