Poet Lafkadio Hearn
The author Lafcadio Hearn (or else Yakumo Koizumi) from Lefkada: Yakumo Koizumi was a renowned author also known by his Christian name Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. He was born on June 27th, 1850. After gaining Japanese citizenship, he started writing books on the history, myths, legends and culture of Japan. Koizumi is mainly famous for his anthology of Japanese ghost stories and legends. Mention may be made of his remarkable works like Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.
Koizumi or Patrick Lafcadio Hearn was born in Lefkada and his father was a surgeon-major. His father was of Irish origin while his mother hailed from the island of Kythera. Koizumi's father was posted at Lefkada at a time when the island was under British rule. Koizumi was baptized in the tradition of the Greek Orthodox Church and his Christian name was Patricio Lafcadio Kassimati Charles Hearn.
Koizumi moved to the Irish city of Dublin at the age of six. Right from his childhood, Koizumi was a creative individual. He was an average student and for a couple of years received his education at the Ushaw Roman Catholic College, in Durham.
The exuberant youth that he was, Koizumi was injured in a freak playground accident in which he lost his vision in the left eye. The religious faith in which he was brought up was, however, soon lost. At the age of 19, he left for the United States and thus in a way was uprooted from his original religious upbringing. Koizumi settled in Cincinnati. Life in the new country wasn't easy and he had to live a life of poverty.
It is possible that the ugly specter of poverty in which Koizumi had to live in the initial years was in a way responsible for his suffering of Paranoia and his utter loss of faith in people who were close to him. With the passage of time, however, Koizumi found a trustworthy friend in Henry Watkin who was a printer and with his help and cooperation, he finally found some meaningful work in the newspaper industry.
Very soon, Koizumi worked his way up the newspaper industry by his sheer talent as a writer. With the passage of time, he became a reporter for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer and worked there between 1872 to 1875.
Koizumi was given a free hand in reporting and he became the paper's most sought-after journalist who was at the forefront of redefining the art of reporting in Cincinnati. Of particular importance was the manner in which he highlighted the plight of Cincinnati's poor. While he was working for Cincinnati Daily Enquirer he fell in love with a Black woman Alethea, popularly referred to as Mattie and married her.
The practice of marrying people from the black community was illegal at that time and once the newspaper authorities discovered his marriage, he was summarily sacked from his job. Nonetheless, he landed with a cushy job for another Cincinnati newspaper The Cincinnati Commercial.
In 1874 Koizumi along with Henry Farny who was a celebrated painter of the American West, brought out a weekly journal on art and literature in the name of Ye Giglampz which ran for nine issues altogether.
In 1877, he left the city of Cincinnati for New Orleans in Louisiana from where he regularly wrote dispatches for the Cincinnati Commercial. Koizumi spent more than a decade in New Orleans during which time he wrote for the Daily City Item and later on for the Times-Democrat. He carved out a niche for himself as a writer who depicted the city’s distinct Creole population, its gastronomic delights, the French Opera and Voudo to name just a few.
As an acclaimed writer, he wrote for national publications of the stature of Harper's Weekly as well as Scribner's Magazine. He was largely responsible for molding the public's perception of New Orleans as a vibrant place with a unique culture that was quite similar to Europe and the Caribbean rather than North America.
Some of his greatest works in Louisiana were Gombo Zhebes, Little Dictionary of Creole Proverbs in Six Dialects and La Cuisine Creole which was a collection of popular recipes dished out by renowned chefs and distinguished Creole housewives, who played a pioneering role in shaping the culinary landscape of New Orleans. Mention must also be made to Chita: A Memory of Last Island, which was a fascinating novel with the hurricane of 1865 being the subject matter.
The renowned publication Harper's deputed Koizumi to the West Indies where he was required to work as a correspondent in the year 1889. He spent two good years in the West Indies and brought out two masterpieces Two Years in the French West Indies and Youma, The Story of a West-Indian Slave both of which were published in 1890.
Even though his legacy is not what it used to be in the days gone by, he still commands respect and his knowledge of Japan, in particular, is unrivaled. The renowned Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi translated four of his most famous tales into a full-length film Kwaidan in 1965. Apart from this, numerous stories written by Koizumi were also used as subject matter for puppet theatres by the celebrated artist Ping Chong.
In recent times, The Storytellers Theatre Company propagated the life and times of Koizumi in Ireland through a play named The Dream of a Summer Day which was directed by Liam Halligan.