日付変更線 International Date Line

The always fantastic online literary journal Guernica  published my translations of the poem “at the side (côtés) of poetry” by the avant-garde Japanese poet YOSHIMASU Gōzō 吉増剛造. This poem is his response to a request byAsahi shinbun for a work about life in the post 3/11 world, and it appeared in an online collection of poets by major contemporary poets, as well as in the leading Japanese poetry journal Handbook of Contemporary Poetry 『現代詩手帖』.  This translation will also appear in a collection of Gōzō’s work currently being edited by Forrest Gander. 

Translating Gōzō’s work is not easy, considering how often it employs word play, sound associations, play across multiple languages, and even random-seeming personal asides; however, the results, I think contain many of the same playfully messy, challenging, and brilliant turns of the original.  Check it out by clicking here.

私の吉増剛造の英訳は『Guernica』というネット上の文学誌に載りました。アメリカの詩人、フォレスト・ガンダーは現在、剛造の英訳詩集を編集しているところなので、私に翻訳を一編依頼しました。これはその結果です。原文は『朝日新聞』の3・11の特集にも、『現代詩手帖』にも載った「詩の傍(côtés)で」です。フランス語も韓国語が交わる剛造の作品は決して英訳しやすくないが、結果は前衛的でポストモダンで、かなり面白いではないかと思います。

伊藤比呂美「意味の虐待」
ウェスタン・ミシガン大学での朗読 (2012)

ITŌ Hiromi: “The Maltreatment of Meaning” read at WMU (2012)
From Killing Kanoko: Selected Poems of Hiromi Ito (Action Books, 2009)


This film shows the promiment feminist poet Itō Hiromi from Japan reading her poem “The Maltreatment of Meaning” at Western Michigan University on February 22, 2012.

As Itō explains at the end of this video, this poem draws inspiration from American artist Bruce Nauman’s 1985 video installation “Good Boy, Bad Boy” in which two video monitors are placed opposite one another, each showing a sixty minute-long video loop. In them, two actors recite alternating phrases, such as “good boy” and “bad boy,” with an increasing degree of emotion. The poem, written at a time when Itō was traveling back and forth between the different linguistic worlds of Poland and Japan, shows her interest in (and resistance to) the signifying process by which people learn language and make meaning. In fact, the poem’s structure is not unlike the grammatical drills that language learners use to master new patterns, yet by the end of the poem, the neat grammatical patterns have broken down.

In honor of National Poetry Month 2012

Just back from the Tokyo Poetry Festival, the poets Joyelle McSweeney & Johannes Göransson (the editors of Action Books), have started blogging about their experiences on the always awesome, theory-driven, poetry criticism website Montevidayo. They were particularly struck by the haiku performance artist Ginema ギネマ, who takes the traditional form of haiku and explodes it, performing in strange, new, often funny, often terrifying ways—turning it into dramatic performance art that screams out from the stage with a ragged voice.  (If the playwright KARA Jurō 唐十郎 were to write haiku, this is no doubt what it would sound like!)

I immediately looked online and found this Youtube video of her reading some of her poems.  Many are in modern, colloquial Japanese—not the stilted, restrained classical Japanese that one usually finds in haiku. Half as interesting as the poems themselves are the reactions of the audience, who shout things like “Huh?”, “What are you talking about?”, “I don’t get it!”

Here are my quick, off-the-cuff translations of the  poems in the order they appear in the video. 

—————-

huge guy
stone cold dead
can’t even shoo the flies

      stuck
      in the drain
      my womanly love

secret rendezvous
in the garden
where I spread herbicide

     suck my finger
     like a dog
     on a moonlit night

little bastard
you say you painted it
must be talking about the window of your idiocy

     i suck the ripe persimmon
     of the night we cannot meet
     how cold!

our hearts
are connected
what about the electrical cord?

     a promise
     tied around
     my pinky toe

on the red bruise
a snail
is it longing?

      from the plaster
      i call out
      the man from the past

I cannot be burned
so the crows
will carry me away

     that’s a dog isn’t it!?
     here in a place
     like this