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Takahashi, Mutsuo (b. 1937)  

In his explicitly gay work, internationally recognized poet and playwright Mutsuo Takahashi celebrates homosexual desire.

Takahashi was born in Japan on December 15, 1937, and educated at Fukuoka University of Education. He has published several volumes of poetry, including You Dirty Ones, Do Dirtier Things (1966), Poems of A Penisist (1975), The Structure of The Kingdom (1982), A Bunch of Keys (1984), Practice/Drinking Eating (1988), The Garden of Rabbits (1988), and Sleeping Sinning Falling (1992).

Few poets bring as much skill and passion to their poems, especially those that consider homosexual desire, as does Takahashi. He has received many prestigious awards for his work, including the Reketei Prize, the Yomiuri Prize, and the Takami Jun Prize.

His work in drama has also earned acclaim. He won the Yamamoto Kenkichi Prize in 1987 for his stage script called Princess Medea. Other works in drama include an adaptation of W. B. Yeats's play At The Hawk's Well and a noh play inspired by Georges Bataille's Le Procès de Gil de Rais.

Even in his earliest work, Takahashi writes with vitality and precision about homosexual desire. Although Japan does not outlaw homosexual relations, the homosexual there remains an outcast because often he does not engage in the rituals and practices of Japanese family life.

The "okama" ("queen") is laughed at and ostracized. The more he is ostracized, the easier it is to keep the laughter going--at the okama's expense. Takahashi's poems give dignity to the okama, celebrating both his sexual desires and his outcast status.

Moreover, most of Takahashi's explicitly gay work celebrates desire, finding joy in the male body much as Walt Whitman's poems do. The poems eagerly name body parts as they probe desire and longing.

The speaker of Takahashi's masterful poem "Ode" celebrates his erotic and promiscuous life much as a priest celebrates the Eucharist. This 1,000-line poem begins with a parody of the Mass: "In the name of / Man, member, / and the holy fluid, / AMEN." As the speaker seeks out sex in the places most frowned on by his society, he is reborn, saved by each new encounter. The glory hole, for example, takes on spiritual significance. Only what is "made flesh" satisfies.

Poems of A Penisist is one of the most important collections of poetry on homosexual desire and sex written in this century. The personae in these poems do not compromise--they see the world as outsiders ("a faggot that fingers point at") but being outsiders brings them joy and meaning. As the majority society mocks and condemns them, their joy in their identity as gay men, as individuals who enjoy pleasure with other men, gives them strength.

In this collection, the speakers consider both their present and their past, sometimes by exploring family memories, such as the uncle who died at age twenty-two and will be forever remembered by one speaker as "this young god." The implication is that even as a very young boy, the speaker was preparing for his future erotic life--both in the flesh and on the page.

Kenneth Pobo


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Mutsuo Takahashi in 2004. Photograph by Jeffrey Angles.
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social sciences >> Overview:  Japan

Blending elements from indigenous traditions and recently imported Western discourses of sexual identity, Japan is home to one of the most diverse and dynamic queer cultures in Asia.

literature >> Overview:  Japanese Literature

The trajectory of the treatment of same-sex love in Japanese literature differs radically from that in Western literatures, but offers many interesting texts that include male-male or female-female love.

literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.


Takahashi, Mutsuo. Poems of A Penisist. Trans. Heroaki Sato. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1975.

_____. A Bunch of Keys. Trans. Heroaki Sato. Trumansburg, N.Y.: Crossing Press, 1984.

_____. Sleeping Sinning Falling. Trans. Heroaki Sato. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1992.


    Citation Information
    Author: Pobo, Kenneth  
    Entry Title: Takahashi, Mutsuo  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated March 24, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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