Thomas Fitzsimmons

illustrations by Karen Hargreaves-Fitzsimmons


Iron Harp


80 pages

6 x 9 inches

ISBN: 1-888809-19-1




Thomas Fitzsimmons went into World War II as an underage merchant seaman just after Pearl Harbor and was discharged from the USAAF just after Hiroshima. Iron Harp is a book about the memories, hard and sweet, which linger throughout a lifetime. One man’s century—from a depressed New England mill-town in the 1920s, through the spirit-splintering insanities of World War II, to renewal in love, and on to glimpses of grace in Japan, along the Mediterranean, and in the high desert of New Mexico. Many of these poems are poignant evocations of battle and its emotional aftermath and leave the reader shuddering as to the undeniable folly of war.

‘Sanity is in forgetting,’ writes Thomas Fitzsimmons, but remembering is what this book is about … vivid, timeless experience, mirrored through the four ancient elements, from a painful and dazzling life narrative.

— Shirley Kauffman


Poetry, as in these lifelines from Thomas Fitzsimmons, America's poet of the truly lived. Spoken in these pages is such a life. As told of here "in our shared world," even the oldest, greatest horrors can be in time unspelled through love, the grace of places and new days. One man's century—but so much more than a century is here, so much more than mere time, the least of what a life is. Here speaking is the kind of bard that teaches what bards are created to teach: how to live, how to die, how to be born anew; where to find courage in despair, how to perceive divinity in the light of day—how to remember, in other words, what must never be forgotten. One way or another, it is all here in these pages: birth and death, and sighting of the beauty within and in between, proving in us all the grace to go on. Let these lines sing in the ancient, life-lived way.

—Robert Brady, Kyoto Journal


Thomas Fitzsimmons was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, October, 1926. Formerly writer/editor, The New Repuclic, (Washington, DC), feature writer, The Asahi Daily News (Tokyo, Japan), he is author, translator or editor of more than 60 books, 32 of which currently are in print. At present he is editor of two book series from University of Hawai'i Press: Asian Poetry in Translation: Japan, and Reflections.
Emeritus Professor of Literature, Oakland University, he has received a number of honors, including three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (poetry, translation and belles lettres) and several Fulbrights to countries in Europe and Asia. In the mid-1970s, he and Karen Hargreaves-Fitzsimmons did a 16 month, 18 nation poetry-reading/performance/lecturing/workshop tour through the Pacific, South Asia, the Middle East and Europe under the auspices of USIS. They live just south of Santa Fe, where they publish Katydid Books, distributed by University of Hawai'i Press. TF's most recent works are: Fencing the Sky (a folio; art by Karen Hargreaves-Fitzsimmons) 1998, The Poetry and Poetics of Ancient Japan (a translation), 1997; The Dream Machine (poetry, in the collection SEXTET: SIX POWERFUL AMERICAN VOICES), 1996; Water Ground Stone (poetry and prose; art by Karen Hargreaves-Fitzsimmons), 1994; and The New Poetry of Japan: the 70s and 80s (an anthology), 1993. His Planet Forces, commissioned by 20th Century Unlimited and scored for soprano and 18 instruments by Peter Michaelides, had its premier December 12, 1998 in Santa Fe. A violin duo composed by Toru Takemitsu to his and Ooka's linked poems in the Japanese-English volume Rocking Mirror Daybreak was commissioned by and is in the repertoire of the New York Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. Other works by Toru Takemitsu and Makoto Ooka to which he has contributed — A Way A Lone, and From Far Beyond Chrysanthemums and November Fog, Chamber Music; From Me Flows What You Call Time, Suite for Percussion and Orchestra; and the Symphony, A String Around Autumn.