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アングルス著『少年愛を書く』の新書評
The most recent issue of Monumenta Nipponica contains a detailed and carefully written review of my book Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). The review was by Michelle Mason, an associate professor of Japanese literature at University of Maryland.  She writes:

Angles convincingly argues that despite occasional borrowing from and homage to Edo-period notions of nanshoku (male-male sexuality), these three artists [discussed in the book, namely MURAYAMA Kaita, 村山槐多 EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩, and INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂] were very much products of their particular historical moment. Specifically, amid the ascendency of heteronormative models of sexuality and an ever-increasing pathologization of male-male attraction and eroticism, they grappled and experimented with, queered, and challenged the aesthetic, medico-scientific, and social trends of their day. One strength of this study is that the lives and textual productions of the men it investigates are richly contextualized within Japanese and Western literary movements, dominant and popular sexological discourses, and trends in print and visual culture. The work also presents an assortment of imported and indigenous terminology and associations that intersect and transform in novel ways to configure modern Japanese conceptualizations of beautiful boys, male-male eroticism, and modern aesthetics….  Anyone reading to the end is rewarded with a rich rendering of an extremely important historical and cultural inheritance, which, as Angles compellingly argues, profoundly informs and inspires current Japanese understanding of male-male desire.

Click here for the entire review.Click here to read about the book on Amazon.Thank you, Michelle!

アングルス著『少年愛を書く』の新書評

The most recent issue of Monumenta Nipponica contains a detailed and carefully written review of my book Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). The review was by Michelle Mason, an associate professor of Japanese literature at University of Maryland.  She writes:

Angles convincingly argues that despite occasional borrowing from and homage to Edo-period notions of nanshoku (male-male sexuality), these three artists [discussed in the book, namely MURAYAMA Kaita, 村山槐多 EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩, and INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂] were very much products of their particular historical moment. Specifically, amid the ascendency of heteronormative models of sexuality and an ever-increasing pathologization of male-male attraction and eroticism, they grappled and experimented with, queered, and challenged the aesthetic, medico-scientific, and social trends of their day. One strength of this study is that the lives and textual productions of the men it investigates are richly contextualized within Japanese and Western literary movements, dominant and popular sexological discourses, and trends in print and visual culture. The work also presents an assortment of imported and indigenous terminology and associations that intersect and transform in novel ways to configure modern Japanese conceptualizations of beautiful boys, male-male eroticism, and modern aesthetics….  Anyone reading to the end is rewarded with a rich rendering of an extremely important historical and cultural inheritance, which, as Angles compellingly argues, profoundly informs and inspires current Japanese understanding of male-male desire.

Click here for the entire review.
Click here to read about the book on Amazon.
Thank you, Michelle!

One of the most poetic visual artists is the American surrealist Joseph Cornell. Each one of his small-scale installations—whether it be filled with antiques, bits of broken glass, balls, sand, or clippings from books and magazines—serves as a small, intimate world that draws the viewer in, inviting him or her to make sense of the work’s poetically suggestive juxtapositions. For this reason, the Japanese poet Takahashi Mutsuo, has long been drawn to Cornell’s work.

Takahashi Mutsuo
This World, or the Man of the Boxes
Dedicated to Joseph Cornell

Pilgrim on earth, thy name is heaven,
Stranger, thou art the guest of God.
—Mary Baker Eddy


The shade of sooty quince
The bloom of dusty roses
——And beyond that
A fence of metal wire     entwined with vines
Of spiderwort     or knotgrass perhaps?

There     tossed among the plants
Reclining     in a weather-worn wooden armchair
Hands folded at his abdomen     like a dead man
Who could he be     this man who looks as if
He was washed here from some distant world?
This man is a decrepit adolescent     a broken angel
Swept here by the ark of dreams     a boat in the shape of a box
When was that?     Yesterday     or a hundred years ago?

*

The world to which this man really belongs     is not here
The world to which this man really belongs
Is far away     through the fissures of dream
Guarded by sensible, steadfast parents
This man wearing a starched collar     is a clever boy
He has two beautiful younger sisters
And a younger brother with an upright spirit
This family of angels with wings hidden under their fancy dress
Is enveloped in golden happiness
That world     of distant memories
Is like a box     floating in a galaxy of tears

*

One morning suddenly     that box-shaped boat ran ashore
In the doorway to that timeless world of happiness
When was that?    A second     or a hundred million years ago?
Dreams are always nightmares     interlopers with foul intent
Drawn by death     the father was pulled backward
And the rest of the family were dragged quickly away
It was here they disembarked     the backyard of a sickly city
Here     not even angels could escape human fate
The mother grew ill from anxiety     the sisters grew thin
And wrinkles spread across the brother’s spotless soul

*

In this false world perched atop the scales
This man was the quiet, noble head of the household
Working harder     growing old faster than everyone else
But     that was not the reality of who he was
His real self is hidden     under the disguise of an old man
Strewn across his chair     seated like a corpse
He inhales the blue-green seas     of his own world of reality
Watches clouds trailing behind airplanes     over the sea
And pricks up his ears to overhear the daytime dialogue of the stars

*

This man suddenly stands from his chair
And slowly descends     through the fallen leaves
Underground     he finds his own private box-like world
With objects     neatly stored in shelves and drawers
Candy boxes     pill boxes     candle boxes
Cut-outs from old images     musical scores     lost wooden blocks
Shells     brass rings     sky blue marbles
Cracked glasses     soap bubble sets——
These too are fragments of the real world
Drifted here through the fissures of dream
This man     gives himself plenty of time
How long?     One week     or thirty years?
He chooses the fragments     then puts them together
In just the right place     in just the right box
While the faint reflection     of the golden happiness
Belonging to the real world so far away
Turns into pale afternoon sunlight     and falls
Upon his deftly moving fingers

*

Is this man no longer at his chair in the garden?
Is he no longer at his basement table?
If he is nowhere to be found
This man     must never have been here at all
What we thought we saw was nothing more
Than the shadow of his real self
His shadowy eyelashes drawing the bow of vision toward the real world
His shadowy hands caressing the flotsam from the real world
It is not for us to lament his absence
Like little birds     we should descend into the garden to bathe as usual
And play on his basement window     like light

*

Then     what about these boxes?
The objects captured inside     the princesses
The ballerinas     the rabbit princes
The parrots     the honeybees     the butterflies
Does this man     lodge inside them
Borrowing the forms of these ephemeral creatures?
Like the garden and basement     these boxes are also
Cheap hotel rooms inhabited briefly    by this man’s shadow
It swings upon the roost     pours some sand
Creates nimble cracks across the panes of glass
And then vanishes
The destination for his shadow is the real world
These wistfully nostalgic boxes before us are
The frames around the well through which
We peer into that world and are drawn in



NOTE: Takahashi originally wrote the poem “This World, or the Man of the Boxes” for an exhibition of Cornell’s work held at the Kawamura Memorial Museum in Sakura, Japan. This poem was such a success that in 2010, when the same museum once again held a large scale Cornell exhibition, the curators invited Takahashi to write one poem to accompany each of the artworks. The result was the collaborative exhibition “Intimate Worlds Enclosed: Joseph Cornell x Takahashi Mutsuo,” which drew large crowds and quickly sold through multiple prints of its catalog. The English renditions of the poems in the catalog were done by Jeffrey Angles. For more information, see the museum’s website: http://kawamura-museum.dic.co.jp/en/exhibition/201004_cornell.html.

TAKAHASHI Mutsuo (1937- ) came to international attention in the 1970s for his bold expressions of homoerotic desire. He is one of Japan’s most prolific contemporary poets, with over three dozen anthologies of free-style verse, haiku, tanka, and other forms of poetry to his name. He is also one of the most thoroughly translated contemporary Japanese poets, with four volumes of his poetry available in English. A translation of his memoirs Twelve Views from the Distance, translated by Jeffrey Angles,was published in 2012 by University of Minnesota Press.

Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932, edited by Angela YIU, illustrated by SAKAGUCHI Kyōhei (University of Hawaii Press, 2013).
University of Hawaii Press has just published this innovative and creative collection of stories, which includes prose by many of the most exciting writers of the early twentieth-century Japanese literature. 
This collection also includes my own translation of INAGAKI Taruho’s “Astromania” 稲垣足穂「天体嗜好症」, a oddly shaped, meandering, yet beautiful story about a young boy’s aesthetic awakening in the Western quarters of the city of Kobe.  (In many ways, I think that Inagaki is subtly riffing off the discourse of sexology, which tended to stereotype an aesthetic orientation with homosexuality, but more about that at another time.) 
Here is some information about the book from the press release. 

A 29th-century dystopian society seen through the eyes of a mutant-cum-romantic poet; a post-impressionist landscape of orbs and cubes experienced by a wandering underdog; an imaginary sick room generated entirely from sounds reaching the ears of an invalid: These and other haunting re-presentations of time and space constitute the Japanese modernist landscape depicted in this volume of stories from the 1910s to the 1930s.
The fourteen stories selected for this anthology—by both relatively unknown and “must-read” authors—experiment with a protean modernist style in the vivacious period between the nationbuilding Meiji and the early years of Showa. The writers capture imaginary temporal and spatial dimensions that embody forms of futuristic urban space, colonial space, utopia, dystopia, and heterotopia. Their work invites readers to abandon the conventional naturalistic approach to spatial and temporal representations and explore how the physical and empirical experience of time and space is distorted and reconfigured through the prism of modernist Japanese prose.

Three-Dimensional Reading: Stories of Time and Space in Japanese Modernist Fiction, 1911-1932, edited by Angela YIU, illustrated by SAKAGUCHI Kyōhei (University of Hawaii Press, 2013).

University of Hawaii Press has just published this innovative and creative collection of stories, which includes prose by many of the most exciting writers of the early twentieth-century Japanese literature. 

This collection also includes my own translation of INAGAKI Taruho’s “Astromania” 稲垣足穂「天体嗜好症」, a oddly shaped, meandering, yet beautiful story about a young boy’s aesthetic awakening in the Western quarters of the city of Kobe.  (In many ways, I think that Inagaki is subtly riffing off the discourse of sexology, which tended to stereotype an aesthetic orientation with homosexuality, but more about that at another time.) 

Here is some information about the book from the press release. 

A 29th-century dystopian society seen through the eyes of a mutant-cum-romantic poet; a post-impressionist landscape of orbs and cubes experienced by a wandering underdog; an imaginary sick room generated entirely from sounds reaching the ears of an invalid: These and other haunting re-presentations of time and space constitute the Japanese modernist landscape depicted in this volume of stories from the 1910s to the 1930s.

The fourteen stories selected for this anthology—by both relatively unknown and “must-read” authors—experiment with a protean modernist style in the vivacious period between the nationbuilding Meiji and the early years of Showa. The writers capture imaginary temporal and spatial dimensions that embody forms of futuristic urban space, colonial space, utopia, dystopia, and heterotopia. Their work invites readers to abandon the conventional naturalistic approach to spatial and temporal representations and explore how the physical and empirical experience of time and space is distorted and reconfigured through the prism of modernist Japanese prose.

Mark McHarry wrote a thoughtful, detailed review of my book Writing the Love of Boysfor the online Australian journal Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific.  He begins, 

Edogawa Ranpo (1894–1965) and Inagaki Taruho (1900–1977) were widely read in early twentieth-century Japan. Murayama Kaita’s (1896–1919) works would prove influential among other authors. Writing the Love of Boys shows how they sought new ways to describe non-heteronormative sexuality in literature, and in so doing developed an aestheticism that would be taken up, in part, by boys’ love.[2] Of the three, and in English, Ranpo’s works may be the most anthologised, but his keen interest in male homoeroticism is not widely known, and the homoerotic writings of Kaita and Taruho perhaps less so. Jeffrey Angles situates their work in modernist Japanese literature, mainly during the Taishō (1912–1926) and pre-war Shōwa (1926–1989) periods. His book is a fascinating glimpse of male-male desire in literature at a time of cultural and political ferment in Japan, and well worth reading by anyone interested in Japanese modernism, Japanese homoeroticism, or boys’ love.

Thank you, Mark, for the review!

ITŌ Sei 伊藤整Photographed in his office by TANUMA Takeoshi

ITŌ Sei 伊藤整
Photographed in his office by TANUMA Takeoshi

Itō Sei 伊藤整, 1931 “A Department Store Called M”「M百貨店」Translated by Jeffrey Angles
The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, vol. 1, ed. J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel (NY: Columbia University Press, 2005) pp. 418-28.

Itō Sei 伊藤整, 1931
“A Department Store Called M”「M百貨店」
Translated by Jeffrey Angles

The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature, vol. 1, ed. J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel (NY: Columbia University Press, 2005) pp. 418-28.

Calder with Steel Fish, Roxbury, 1934.アレクサンダー・カルダー(1898-1976)  Photograph by James Thrall Soby.

Calder with Steel Fish, Roxbury, 1934.
アレクサンダー・カルダー(1898-1976)
 
Photograph by James Thrall Soby.

Eric Selland published this kick-ass review of my translations of Tada Chimako, Forest of Eyes, in Translation Review.  Click the link here for the full review, but here is how it begins. 

There is a quiet renaissance of sorts taking place in the translation and publication of contemporary Japanese poets, especially women poets, and Jeffrey Angles has had a major hand in this development.  Though over the years Japan’s modern poetry has probably fared better than other Asian poetries in gaining some attention, it has always been difficult to convince publishers to take on volumes by a single poet.  When these books do appear, they tend to go out of print quickly.  As of this writing there are at least three poets I can think of offhand, considered to be of great importance to Japan’s postwar literature, whose books are out of print or otherwise difficult to obtain.  Hence the arrival of a substantial selection of poems by Tada Chimako, accompanied by a knowledgeable introduction by the translator, is cause for celebration.

Thanks, Eric.

Samuel Barber: “Sure on This Shining Night” & “The Crucifixion”
Cheryl Studer, Soprano

The composer Samuel Barber worked with several texts by poet and writer James Agee to produce some of the most stunningly poetic settings by any American composer.  The first of these two songs, the spectacularly lovely “Sure on This Shining Night” is surely one of the great American art songs. The other song here comes from Barber’s Hermit Songs, and is based on a translation by Howard Mumford Jones of a medieval Irish text.

In honor of National Poetry Month

D・ショスタコーヴィチ:交響曲第14番第5楽章(ギヨーム・アポリネール・詩)

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 14, 5th movement (Guillaume Apollinaire, Poem)
Neeme Järvi, conductor; Berliner Philharmoniker; Olga Mykytenko, soprano

Here is a translation of this powerful anti-war poem, as found on another version of the text on Youtube.

Les Attentives I - Guillaume Apollinaire

He who will die in the trenches tonight
Is a little soldier whose indifferent eye
Gazes all day on the concrete defenses
Where last night’s glorious trophies are impaled.
He who will die in the trenches tonight
Is a little soldier my brother and my lover

And since he must die I want to be beautiful
I want my naked breasts to light the torches
I want my bi eyes to melt the frozen lake
And I want my thighs to become tombs
For since he must die I want to be beautiful
In incest and death the two acts of such beauty

Cows at sunset chew up all their roses
The bluebird’s wing softly brushes me
This is the hour of Love’s ardent neuroses
This is the hour of Death and of the last promise
He who will perish as the roses die
Is a little soldier my brother and my lover

In honor of National Poetry Month

Cy Twombly, Problem II & III (1966)Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt
One of my favorite artists, the idiosyncratic and always interesting Cy Twombly has passed away.  His wild and scribble-like drawings and paintings, almost always executed on a grand scale, still somehow always manage to maintain something personable and intimate about them, something that draws the viewer into his playfully warm world.  (The ability to create a warm and inviting work while just using scribbly, free, stridently non-representational—perhaps even anti-representational lines is itself quite a feat, rarely achieved by his abstract expressionist contemporaries.
This work, which I photographed just the other day at the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, reminds me of the kind of simple image a young, learning child might draw on the great blackboards at school as he is learning about the wondrous shapes that make up the world.  The title, Problem, suggests exactly this sort of innocent query as some child (or childlike artist) attempts to solve a problem of shape, form, and line.
The New York Times ran this story about the death of Cy Twombly. 

Cy Twombly, whose spare childlike scribbles and poetic engagement with antiquity left him stubbornly out of step  with the movements of postwar American art even as he became one of the  era’s most important painters, died in Rome Tuesday. He was 83.
The cause was not immediately known, although Mr. Twombly had  suffered from cancer. His death was announced by the Gagosian Gallery,  which represents his work.
Michael Stravato for The New York TimesCy Twombly in 2005.
In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed  briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and  anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a  divisive artist almost from the start. The curator Kirk Varnedoe, on the  occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote  that his work was “influential among artists, discomfiting to many  critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for  sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.” The critic Robert  Hughes called him “the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid  duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.”
Mr. Twombly’s decision to settle permanently in southern Italy in  1957 as the art world shifted decisively in the other direction, from  Europe to New York, was only the most symbolic of his idiosyncrasies. He  avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics,  who questioned constantly whether his work deserved a place at the  forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to  see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their  surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures,  drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled  phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction.
But Mr. Twombly, a tall, rangy Virginian who once practiced drawing  in the dark to make his lines less purposeful, steadfastly followed his  own program and looked to his own muses: often literary ones like  Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke. He seemed to welcome the privacy that  came with unpopularity.
“I had my freedom and that was nice,” he said in a rare interview,  with Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, before a 2008 survey of  his career at the Tate Modern.
The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the  Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and  writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was  especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few  drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a  review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”
But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of  younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr.  Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl. Coupled with rising  interest in European artists whose work shared unexpected ground with  Mr. Twombly’s, like that of Joseph Beuys, the new-found attention  brought him a kind of critical favor he had never enjoyed. And by the  next decade he was highly sought after not only by European museums and  collectors, who had discovered his work early on, but also by those back  in his homeland who had not known what to make of him two decades  before.
In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened permanent rooms  dedicated to his monumental 10-painting cycle, “Fifty Days at Iliam,”  based on Alexander Pope’s translation of the “Iliad.” (Mr. Twombly said  that he had purposely misspelled “Ilium,” a Latin name for Troy, with an  “a,” to refer to Achilles.) That same year, Mr. Twombly’s work passed  the million-dollar mark at auction. In 1995 the Menil Collection in  Houston opened a new gallery dedicated to his work, designed by Renzo  Piano after a plan by Mr. Twombly himself. Despite this growing  acceptance, Mr. Varnedoe still felt it necessary to include an essay in  the Modern’s newsletter at the time of the retrospective, titled “Your  Kid Could Not Do This, and Other Reflections on Cy Twombly.”
In the only written statement that Mr. Twombly ever made about his  work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make  clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human.  Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the  line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own  realization.” Years later he described this more plainly. “It’s more  like I’m having an experience than making a picture.” The process stood  in stark contrast to the detached, effete image that often clung to Mr.  Twombly. After completing a work, in a kind of ecstatic state, it was as  if the painting existed and he barely did anymore: “I usually have to  go to bed for a couple of days.”

Cy Twombly, Problem II & III (1966)
Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt

One of my favorite artists, the idiosyncratic and always interesting Cy Twombly has passed away.  His wild and scribble-like drawings and paintings, almost always executed on a grand scale, still somehow always manage to maintain something personable and intimate about them, something that draws the viewer into his playfully warm world.  (The ability to create a warm and inviting work while just using scribbly, free, stridently non-representational—perhaps even anti-representational lines is itself quite a feat, rarely achieved by his abstract expressionist contemporaries.

This work, which I photographed just the other day at the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, reminds me of the kind of simple image a young, learning child might draw on the great blackboards at school as he is learning about the wondrous shapes that make up the world.  The title, Problem, suggests exactly this sort of innocent query as some child (or childlike artist) attempts to solve a problem of shape, form, and line.

The New York Times ran this story about the death of Cy Twombly. 

Cy Twombly, whose spare childlike scribbles and poetic engagement with antiquity left him stubbornly out of step with the movements of postwar American art even as he became one of the era’s most important painters, died in Rome Tuesday. He was 83.

The cause was not immediately known, although Mr. Twombly had suffered from cancer. His death was announced by the Gagosian Gallery, which represents his work.

Cy Twombly in 2005.Michael Stravato for The New York TimesCy Twombly in 2005.

In a career that slyly subverted Abstract Expressionism, toyed briefly with Minimalism, seemed barely to acknowledge Pop Art and anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a divisive artist almost from the start. The curator Kirk Varnedoe, on the occasion of a 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, wrote that his work was “influential among artists, discomfiting to many critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.” The critic Robert Hughes called him “the Third Man, a shadowy figure, beside that vivid duumvirate of his friends Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.”

Mr. Twombly’s decision to settle permanently in southern Italy in 1957 as the art world shifted decisively in the other direction, from Europe to New York, was only the most symbolic of his idiosyncrasies. He avoided publicity throughout his life and mostly ignored his critics, who questioned constantly whether his work deserved a place at the forefront of 20th-century abstraction, though he lived long enough to see it arrive there. It didn’t help that his paintings, because of their surface complexity and whirlwinds of tiny detail – scratches, erasures, drips, penciled fragments of Italian and classical verse amid scrawled phalluses and buttocks – lost much of their power in reproduction.

But Mr. Twombly, a tall, rangy Virginian who once practiced drawing in the dark to make his lines less purposeful, steadfastly followed his own program and looked to his own muses: often literary ones like Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke. He seemed to welcome the privacy that came with unpopularity.

“I had my freedom and that was nice,” he said in a rare interview, with Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, before a 2008 survey of his career at the Tate Modern.

The critical low point probably came after a 1964 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York that was widely panned. The artist and writer Donald Judd, who was hostile toward painting in general, was especially damning even so, calling the show a fiasco. “There are a few drips and splatters and an occasional pencil line,” he wrote in a review. “There isn’t anything to these paintings.”

But by the 1980s, with the rise of neo-Expressionism, a generation of younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in Mr. Twombly’s skittery bathroom-graffiti scrawl. Coupled with rising interest in European artists whose work shared unexpected ground with Mr. Twombly’s, like that of Joseph Beuys, the new-found attention brought him a kind of critical favor he had never enjoyed. And by the next decade he was highly sought after not only by European museums and collectors, who had discovered his work early on, but also by those back in his homeland who had not known what to make of him two decades before.

In 1989 the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened permanent rooms dedicated to his monumental 10-painting cycle, “Fifty Days at Iliam,” based on Alexander Pope’s translation of the “Iliad.” (Mr. Twombly said that he had purposely misspelled “Ilium,” a Latin name for Troy, with an “a,” to refer to Achilles.) That same year, Mr. Twombly’s work passed the million-dollar mark at auction. In 1995 the Menil Collection in Houston opened a new gallery dedicated to his work, designed by Renzo Piano after a plan by Mr. Twombly himself. Despite this growing acceptance, Mr. Varnedoe still felt it necessary to include an essay in the Modern’s newsletter at the time of the retrospective, titled “Your Kid Could Not Do This, and Other Reflections on Cy Twombly.”

In the only written statement that Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” Years later he described this more plainly. “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.” The process stood in stark contrast to the detached, effete image that often clung to Mr. Twombly. After completing a work, in a kind of ecstatic state, it was as if the painting existed and he barely did anymore: “I usually have to go to bed for a couple of days.”

Congratulations to Keith Vincent, who just won the Japan-US Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature for his new translation of OKAMOTO Kanoko 岡本かの子! 
Okamoto Kanoko was one of the most brilliant women writers of the modernist era, as well as being an accomplished tanka poet.  The English-speaking world needs a great deal more of Okamoto’s work, and so this is a welcome and much needed addition to the corpus of Japanese literature in English.

Congratulations to Keith Vincent, who just won the Japan-US Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature for his new translation of OKAMOTO Kanoko 岡本かの子! 

Okamoto Kanoko was one of the most brilliant women writers of the modernist era, as well as being an accomplished tanka poet.  The English-speaking world needs a great deal more of Okamoto’s work, and so this is a welcome and much needed addition to the corpus of Japanese literature in English.

Japanese design, 1920s-1930sCover image in need of a bookOriginally posted by fiveoclockbot

Japanese design, 1920s-1930s
Cover image in need of a book
Originally posted by fiveoclockbot

When making a quick visit to Kamakura the other day to meet a friend, we took in the TSUJI Shindō 辻晉堂 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura.  The retrospective of this creative sculptor was full of bold, inventive, masculine, and often strikingly playful forms.
The Japan Times had this article about this wonderful show. 
Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
Shindo Tsuji: From the trees to the earth
By C.B. LIDDELL Special to The Japan Times
In 1948, the respected Zen elder Ian Kishizawa told the  sculptor Shindo Tsuji, “Forget whatever you can and express whatever  remains.” Despite its enigmatic and paradoxical quality, this typically  Zen-like admonition nevertheless manages to sum up the career of Tsuji  (1910-1981), an important Japanese sculptor whose centenary is being  celebrated by a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art,  Kamakura.
"Han-Shan" (1958) by Shindo Tsuji  COURTESY OF TOTTORI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM
Tsuji’s early career is the familiar tale of a young  provincial coming to sup at the fountain of metropolitan sophistication  and seeking to make a name for himself by acquiring the expected styles  and techniques. After moving to Tokyo from his home village in Tottori  Prefecture in 1931, he studied Western-style painting at the Independent  Institute of Art, before switching to sculpture, for which his main  influence was the naturalism of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Working in wood, early works, such as “Summer Morning —  Master Denchu Hirakushi Aged Seventy” (1941) and “Poet — Study for  Yakamochi Otomo” (1942), won praise for their realism, despite the fact  that the statue of Otomo looks very different from how we would imagine  the Nara period (710-794) poet to have been. By this time, Tsuji was  exhibiting his work as a member of the Japan Art Institute Exhibition.
Having learned much, the rest of his career, in  accordance with the instruction given by Kishizawa, was a kind of  forgetting. This journey led him to greater expressiveness as well as a  more profound interaction with his materials. A key event in this  respect was moving to Kyoto, where in 1949 he took up a teaching post at  the Kyoto City School of Art (today’s Kyoto City University of Arts).  At that time, even in the center of Kyoto you could find kilns turning  out pottery. To someone like Tsuji, who had already sculpted in wood,  plaster, and bronze, it seemed only natural to turn to ceramics as a  medium of expression.
There is something anthropomorphic about wood. It seems  to cry out to be carved into humanlike figures, as is evident in  Tsuji’s work. But clay is a different matter. With ceramics Tsuji’s  sculpture was able to take a more abstract route, and his work provided  inspiration to avant-garde ceramicists, such as Kazuo Yagi and the  Sodeisha group, who wanted to escape from functionality and treat their  works as pure objets d’art.
Working with clay freed Tsuji from what he had known  before. He responded to the qualities of the new material with a sense  of discovery and originality. Rather than working from models, as he had  done when sculpting in wood, he used his own internalized concepts as  points of departure for increasingly abstract pieces. While “Cat” (1956)  is still recognizable as a cat, “Head of Cat” (1956) is not. It is only  after reading the name plate that we perceive, with a sudden  pleasurable jolt, the sculpture’s feline essence. Tsuji’s ceramic  sculptures from this period represent the acme of his art, something  that was recognized when he was selected to represent Japan at the 1958  Venice Biennale.
His work also shows a noticeable tendency toward  chunky, blocklike sculptures, such as “Man Sitting on a Chair” (1957)  and “Mountain Man” (1957). These have an architectural feel, looking  like the kind of buildings you might find on some alien world. As a  devout Zen Buddhist himself — he had become a priest in 1938 — some of  the ideas that spurred such abstract pieces were from Buddhist  traditions. For example, one of the works shown at the Venice Biennale,  the bulky-looking “Han-shan” (1958), was inspired by the 9th-century  Chinese poet Han-Shan, revered in Zen Buddhism as an incarnation of the  Bodhisattva Manjusri.
Despite their abstract style, these works retain a hint  of the figurative, something that helps to unlock them for most  viewers. However, Tsuji yearned for greater esotericism. In his  subsequent career he produced pieces that moved toward greater  abstraction through their flatness. Looking like pieces of wall removed  from some adobe desert village, these works combine warm textures with  reticent formal qualities. Somewhat limited as works of art, they seem  more conducive to states of Zen meditation, perhaps expressing whatever  remained after a lifetime of forgetting.
"Tsuji Shindo: A Retrospective" at The Museum of Modern  Art, Kamakura, runs till March 27; admission ¥800; open 9:30 a.m.-5  p.m., closed Mon. For more information, visit www.moma.pref.kanagawa.jp

When making a quick visit to Kamakura the other day to meet a friend, we took in the TSUJI Shindō 辻晉堂 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura.  The retrospective of this creative sculptor was full of bold, inventive, masculine, and often strikingly playful forms.

The Japan Times had this article about this wonderful show. 

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011

Shindo Tsuji: From the trees to the earth

By C.B. LIDDELL Special to The Japan Times

In 1948, the respected Zen elder Ian Kishizawa told the sculptor Shindo Tsuji, “Forget whatever you can and express whatever remains.” Despite its enigmatic and paradoxical quality, this typically Zen-like admonition nevertheless manages to sum up the career of Tsuji (1910-1981), an important Japanese sculptor whose centenary is being celebrated by a major retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura.

News photo

"Han-Shan" (1958) by Shindo Tsuji COURTESY OF TOTTORI PREFECTURAL MUSEUM

Tsuji’s early career is the familiar tale of a young provincial coming to sup at the fountain of metropolitan sophistication and seeking to make a name for himself by acquiring the expected styles and techniques. After moving to Tokyo from his home village in Tottori Prefecture in 1931, he studied Western-style painting at the Independent Institute of Art, before switching to sculpture, for which his main influence was the naturalism of French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Working in wood, early works, such as “Summer Morning — Master Denchu Hirakushi Aged Seventy” (1941) and “Poet — Study for Yakamochi Otomo” (1942), won praise for their realism, despite the fact that the statue of Otomo looks very different from how we would imagine the Nara period (710-794) poet to have been. By this time, Tsuji was exhibiting his work as a member of the Japan Art Institute Exhibition.

Having learned much, the rest of his career, in accordance with the instruction given by Kishizawa, was a kind of forgetting. This journey led him to greater expressiveness as well as a more profound interaction with his materials. A key event in this respect was moving to Kyoto, where in 1949 he took up a teaching post at the Kyoto City School of Art (today’s Kyoto City University of Arts). At that time, even in the center of Kyoto you could find kilns turning out pottery. To someone like Tsuji, who had already sculpted in wood, plaster, and bronze, it seemed only natural to turn to ceramics as a medium of expression.

There is something anthropomorphic about wood. It seems to cry out to be carved into humanlike figures, as is evident in Tsuji’s work. But clay is a different matter. With ceramics Tsuji’s sculpture was able to take a more abstract route, and his work provided inspiration to avant-garde ceramicists, such as Kazuo Yagi and the Sodeisha group, who wanted to escape from functionality and treat their works as pure objets d’art.

Working with clay freed Tsuji from what he had known before. He responded to the qualities of the new material with a sense of discovery and originality. Rather than working from models, as he had done when sculpting in wood, he used his own internalized concepts as points of departure for increasingly abstract pieces. While “Cat” (1956) is still recognizable as a cat, “Head of Cat” (1956) is not. It is only after reading the name plate that we perceive, with a sudden pleasurable jolt, the sculpture’s feline essence. Tsuji’s ceramic sculptures from this period represent the acme of his art, something that was recognized when he was selected to represent Japan at the 1958 Venice Biennale.

His work also shows a noticeable tendency toward chunky, blocklike sculptures, such as “Man Sitting on a Chair” (1957) and “Mountain Man” (1957). These have an architectural feel, looking like the kind of buildings you might find on some alien world. As a devout Zen Buddhist himself — he had become a priest in 1938 — some of the ideas that spurred such abstract pieces were from Buddhist traditions. For example, one of the works shown at the Venice Biennale, the bulky-looking “Han-shan” (1958), was inspired by the 9th-century Chinese poet Han-Shan, revered in Zen Buddhism as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri.

Despite their abstract style, these works retain a hint of the figurative, something that helps to unlock them for most viewers. However, Tsuji yearned for greater esotericism. In his subsequent career he produced pieces that moved toward greater abstraction through their flatness. Looking like pieces of wall removed from some adobe desert village, these works combine warm textures with reticent formal qualities. Somewhat limited as works of art, they seem more conducive to states of Zen meditation, perhaps expressing whatever remained after a lifetime of forgetting.

"Tsuji Shindo: A Retrospective" at The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, runs till March 27; admission ¥800; open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Mon. For more information, visit www.moma.pref.kanagawa.jp

When writers are putting words to paper, we are always imagining and dreaming of the ideal reader—the reader who will be open to the possibilities of language and ideas outside the traditional, readers who will be willing to think about details, savoring them like chocolate truffles that slowly melt on the tongue and linger in the taste buds long after the original treat has melted away. 

Perhaps this is especially true for translators, who perhaps subconsciously, are always trying to negotiate the chasms that separate two languages and their modes of expression.  Because the translator is doing his or her best not just to represent the author, but negotiating with the mechanisms of language on behalf of the reader, there is a strange Janus-like quality to translation, as one looks backward and forward at the same time.  We are always important to imagine the reader, trying to anticipate the aesthetic affects the text will produce for him and her, and that helps to guide our hand at many difficult points.  Indeed, the simultaneous act of looking backward at the text and looking forward to some invisible reader is what makes translation so perilously difficult, and it is because many people cannot manage this tightrope act that it is so easy for the translator to fall into the netless chasm below. 

Eric Selland has written a tremendously sensitive, careful review of my book of translations of Tada Chimako , published last year by University of California Press, and in this review, he shows himself to be exactly the sort of ideal reader one hopes is waiting at the end while one is walking the tightrope of translation.  Eric, who is himself a poet and first-rate translator, is sensitive to subtleties yet manages to see the whole picture, understanding the overall aesthetic affect of the original as well as the final translation.  Thank you, Eric, for catching me at the end of the tightrope walk, and not letting me fall!