Cover Photo: photo by kenstein/flickr
photo by kenstein/flickr

切ない (Setsunai): When You Need a Word to Hold Both Sorrow and Joy

‘Setsunai’ implies something once bright, now faded. It is the painful twinge at the edge of a memory, the joy in the knowledge that everything is temporary.

This is Mistranslate, a monthly column by Nina Li Coomes about language, self-expression, and what it means to exist between cultures.

How do we translate setsunai?

Nina Li Coomes is a Japanese and American writer, currently living in Boston, MA. Her writing has appeared in EATER, The  Collapsar, and  RHINO Poetry among other places. Her debut chapbook haircut poems was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2017.