日付変更線 International Date Line

新刊!伊藤比呂美『河原荒草』の英訳

This month, Action Books is publishing my second book of translations of ITŌ Hiromi 伊藤比呂美, one of Japan’s most theoretically provocative and endlessly innovative poets. One of the first attempts in contemporary Japan to write a book-length narrative poem, Wild Grass on the Riverbank is a long, wild, interlingual exploration of migrancy, alienation, borders, language, abuse, determination, and what it means to live in between two far-apart countries. It is wild, overflowing, full of excess, and unlike anything I had ever read before. Once I read it, I simply could not get it out of my head.  

The book is not yet on Amazon or the SPD website, but we hope that it should be come October.  I hope that this book excites some of you, my friends, as much as it did me!

Click here to read critic TOCHIGI Nobuaki’s comments on Wild Grass on the Riverbank.
Click here for Killing KanokoItō’s first book of translations into English.

カール・サンドバーグ「カラマズーの罪」(詩)
Carl Sandberg “The Sins of Kalamazoo”

I think that Kalamazoo has become slightly more full of sin than when Carl Sandberg published this poem in the collection Smoke and Steel in1922. Although this little film by Logan Marshall-Green is lovely, I don’t think it was shot in Kalamazoo at all.

The Bozar Expo in Brussels is doing what promises to be an amazing exhibition about the connection between the avant-garde and feminism during the 1970s.  Click here for more information. In conjunction with that exhibition, Bozar is also putting out a small collection entitled “I Sit Like a Garbage God,” which contains avant-garde poetry written by feminist poets around the world during the same era. 

It looks like this mini-expo and the catalog that is being published along with it will contain an awe-inspiring line-up of poets! Among them are the critically important Japanese poet Hiromi Itō, who will be appearing my English translations, and one of my absolutely favorite writers, the Korean poet Kim Hyesoon who will be appearing the translations of Don Mee Choi.

Click here for more information.

中原中也詩英訳パネルディスカッション
伊藤比呂美、ジェフリー・アングルス、アーサー・ビナード、四元康祐
Panel discussion about translating Nakahara Chūya into English
Sponsored by the Nakahara Chūya Memorial Museum, Yamaguchi City

A group of bilingual poets—Hiromi Itō, Jeffrey Angles, Arthur Binard, and Yasuhiro Yotsumoto—is coming together in Yamaguchi City to do a panel discussion on July 13, 2014 about our ongoing project to translate into English the modernist poet, Nakahara Chūya, a figure often considered one of the fathers of Japanese modernist poetry. (Chūya was heavily influenced by symbolism and Dada, and he was one of the most important Japanese translators of Rimbaud.) This event will be hosted by the always wonderful Nakahara Chūya Memorial Museum.

「ゆあーん ゆよーん ゆやゆよん」は英語でどう言うの?日米両国で活動を続けている詩人・伊藤比呂美をコーディネーターとして、日本語と英語双方に深い造詣をもつ詩人・翻訳家のアーサー・ビナード、ジェフリー・アングルス、四元康祐をパネリストに迎え、英訳することで初めて見えてくる中也の詩の特徴、日本語と英語の詩的表現の違いなどを、熱く語り合います。

日時:7月13日(日) 14:00~16:00(開場:13:30~)
会場:ホテル松政 2階 芙蓉の間
(山口市湯田温泉3丁目5-8 TEL.083-922-2000)

参加料:無料・事前申込み不要

お問合せ:中原中也記念館
TEL 083-932-6430 FAX 083-932-6431
http://www.chuyakan.jp/04news/20th09.html

新井高子「ベッドと織機」と英訳

Yesterday, I posted a few thoughts about the new book of poetry by the feminist poet ARAI Takako, one of the most provocative and theoretically interesting young figures in the Japanese poetic world.  Today, I wanted to share the title work from that collection, which I translated as “Beds and Looms” for publication in the inaugural issue of the journal Southpaw (2012), a left-learning journal of art and writing that explores issues of cultural displacement, global capitalism, and the legacy of colonialism.  

Arai’s father was the owner of a small, cottage-style, weaving factory in Kiryū, Gunma Prefecture, a town known for textile production since ancient times. At its height, it employed a few dozen people, the overwhelming majority of which were women. This poem is part of a series that Arai has written about the lives of the women workers she observed while growing up in the factory.

This particular poem juxtaposes the images of baby beds, the mattresses on which adult workers met and made love, and the looms which the factory women used to make their living. In doing so, it exploresthe ways that different forms of desire—sexual desire, motherly desire, the desire for labor, and the desire for commodities—intersected on the floor of her father’s factory. Powerful and brilliant.

Julio Cortázar “Los Dioses,” “The Gods,” translated by Stephen Kessler

俳人・宮下惠美子、骨董専門家・宮下進は西ミシガン大学で講演をする

Western Michigan University’s Soga Japan Center is pleased to bring husband-and-wife team Susumu & Emiko Miyashita to WMU to give two talks part of its ongoing Premodern Japanese Culture Workshop and Speaker Series. The talks will be held back-to-back on Thursday, February 13, 2014 in 3025 Brown Hall on WMU’s campus. 

From 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., the haiku poet Emiko Miyashita will talk about the history of haiku and the translation of haiku poetry into English. Although Westerners think of haiku as a form of short verse arranged in the pattern of 5-7-5 sounds, there is also a style of haiku known as “free rhythm haiku” that follows freer rules. Miyashita will talk about the work of the modern free-rhythm haiku master Taneda Santōka 種田山頭火 (1882-1940), the place of his work in the history of haiku, and the difficulties of translating his work for contemporary Western audiences. The talk will be in English with examples of translations problems drawn from Japanese.


From 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., Susumu Miyashita will talk about the aesthetics of the tea ceremony and the ways that its profound appreciation of simple, rough ceramics and utensils contributed to Japanese aesthetics. People frequently describe the tea ceremony’s appreciation of rough, simple beauty as being uniquely “Japanese,” but is that necessarily the case? This presentation re-evaluates the assumption that other nations and people cannot appreciate the aesthetics of tea. Susumu Miyashita, an expert in tea-related antiques, will show examples of tea culture, and talk about the aesthetics that have shaped the tea ceremony and notions of “Japaneseness” over the years. This talk will be in Japanese with English interpretation. 

Emiko Miyashita 宮下惠美子 is a haiku poet who, since 1997, has been writing in both Japanese and English. She is a director of the JAL Foundation, known for its World Children’s Haiku Contest. She is also a manager of the Association of Haiku Poets and a councilor of the Haiku International Association. She has translated more than ten books about haiku and waka poetry, Noh theater, and Japanese sweets. 

Susumu Miyashita 宮下進 is a graduate of Dōshisha University in Kyoto. He is the owner of a shop in the Ginza (Tokyo) that specializes in tea antiques. 

In 2013, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale hosted a workshop about shakkyōka 釈教歌, poems on Buddhist themes. The papers and presentations from the conference are now available on the web, and they provide a fascinating, critical look at this often overlooked sub-genre of classical Japanese poetry. 

In 2013, the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale hosted a workshop about shakkyōka 釈教歌, poems on Buddhist themes. The papers and presentations from the conference are now available on the web, and they provide a fascinating, critical look at this often overlooked sub-genre of classical Japanese poetry. 

Transference, WMU’s journal of poetry in translation, is having an open reading period through January 5, 2014.  Please download the previous issue and submit at http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference/. 

Transference, WMU’s journal of poetry in translation, is having an open reading period through January 5, 2014.  Please download the previous issue and submit at http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference/

The journal Poetry Kanto, designed to bring Japanese and other international poets into dialogue, has just released its newest issue completely online. (Click here to follow the link.) In it are some translations of some important Japanese poets: ŌOKA Makoto 大岡 誠, one of the leaders of the Japanese poetic world in the mid-twentieth century, and TSUKAGOSHI Yūka 塚越祐佳, one of the new, dynamic generation of poets whose work I have been following in recent years with great interest. Alongside them is Gorō TAKANO 高野吾朗, the Hiroshima-born poet who tests the boundaries of language in his adopted language of English. Check out their work, along with the many other writers included in this issue. 

The journal Poetry Kanto, designed to bring Japanese and other international poets into dialogue, has just released its newest issue completely online. (Click here to follow the link.) In it are some translations of some important Japanese poets: ŌOKA Makoto 大岡 誠, one of the leaders of the Japanese poetic world in the mid-twentieth century, and TSUKAGOSHI Yūka 塚越祐佳, one of the new, dynamic generation of poets whose work I have been following in recent years with great interest. Alongside them is Gorō TAKANO 高野吾朗, the Hiroshima-born poet who tests the boundaries of language in his adopted language of English. Check out their work, along with the many other writers included in this issue. 

My department, the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University, just published the inaugural issue of Transference, a journal of poetry in translation.  The inaugural issue can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here. It includes some wonderful translations of many poets from around the world, including many Japanese poets—Fujiwara Shunzei, Takamura Kōtarō, Yamanokuchi Baku, Doi Bansui, Ishihara Yoshirō, and even Natsume Sōseki.  
We have just opened the reading period for the second issue.  The journal publishes English translations of poetry from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian.  We encourage translators to submit a short commentary on the art and process of translating along with their translations.Submissions for our second issue will be accepted through January 5, 2014. Submissions can be sent in via the Transference website.

My department, the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University, just published the inaugural issue of Transference, a journal of poetry in translation.  The inaugural issue can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking here. It includes some wonderful translations of many poets from around the world, including many Japanese poets—Fujiwara Shunzei, Takamura Kōtarō, Yamanokuchi Baku, Doi Bansui, Ishihara Yoshirō, and even Natsume Sōseki.  

We have just opened the reading period for the second issue.  The journal publishes English translations of poetry from Arabic, Chinese, French and Old French, German, Classical Greek and Latin, Japanese, and Russian.  We encourage translators to submit a short commentary on the art and process of translating along with their translations.

Submissions for our second issue will be accepted through January 5, 2014Submissions can be sent in via the Transference website.

高橋睦郎X伊藤比呂美のミシガン州朗読ツアー

Next week, two of the most thrilling and dynamic Japanese poets, Mutsuo TAKAHASHI and Hiromi ITŌ, will be visiting Michigan for a series of three poetry readings and talks at Western Michigan University, University of Michigan, and Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.  Details about each of the three events can be found in the posters above.  Already, the poets are talking about how to make each of the events unique and fun, so no two events will be the same. 

Mutsuo TAKAHASHI (b. 1937) stunned the poetry world in the 1960s with his bold evocations of homoerotic desire. Since then, he has published more than three dozen collections of verse and countless books of essays, earning a place as Japan’s most important gay writer. In addition to poetry, he has written novels, plays, haiku, tanka, countless essays, and even an opera libretto. Five volumes of his work are available in English, including Poems of a Penisist, which became a favorite work of Allen Ginsberg, and the memoir Twelve Views from the Distance, much admired by novelist Yukio MISHIMA. Takahashi currently lives in Zushi, Japan.

Hiromi ITŌ (b. 1955) made a sensational debut in the 1980s writing about sexual desire, pregnancy, and abortion with a directness that shocked some and made her a feminist hero to others. Since then, she has become a prominent fixture in the literary world, writing with unfailing originality about women’s issues and experiences. She has lived in California since 1997 and written several prize-winning works about her experience as a transnational migrant. Her English translations include Killing Kanoko, which was on the SPD Poetry Bestseller list for over one year, and the forthcoming Wild Grass on the Riverbank. She lives outside San Diego.

New English translations of Tawada Yōko
多和田葉子の詩の新英訳

Mantis: A Journal of Poetry, Criticism, and Translation, published by the English Department of Stanford University, has released its eleventh volume.  In this issue is my translation of a series of poems by TAWADA Yōko 多和田葉子 (a writer who is nothing short of a genius in my book) called “People Born of Lines” 「線から生まれた人々」 .   As I explain in an interview also included in this issue, these poems were inspired by the shapes of particular kanji (Chinese characters).  For instance, she writes about the character 人 meaning “person,”

The character for ‘person’ look so sparse
No brain, no shoes to wear
If it just had hands, it could light a fire
But it cannot create light or warmth on its own

Then, in the next poem, she writes about the character 木, which means “tree” and is only a couple of strokes away from the character 人.  In this playful and creative way, she works her way through a series of similar-looking characters with different meanings, thus producing a cleverly linked series of poems. 

In 2011, Tawada and I read these poems together at the Worlds writer’s conference in Norwich, England, she holding up a big sign with the character being described, and me reading the English.  (Martin Figura took the photograph above of me reading the poem inspired by the character for “rice.”  This photograph is especially hilarious because the character for “rice” also means “America,” so it looks as if Tawada is using semaphore to telegraph my nationality from the sidelines.)  Tawada and I look forward to reading this piece again when she visits Western Michigan University for a reading in April 2014. 

To order a copy of Mantis, click here.

Poems about March 11, 2011 disasters in Japan

The March 11, 2011 earthquake that shook northeastern Japan also reverberated throughout Japanese society, forcing it to reconsider many of things things that it had taken for granted—its usage of energy, its relationship to the natural environment, its relationship with the government, and its modes of organizing at the grass-roots level.  Almost immediately, writers took action.  Many figures known for their involvement in social issues, writers such as Ōe Kenzaburō, Tsushima Yūko, and Ishimure Michiko, began respond and publish statements to the press, helping to use their influence to help shape reconstruction efforts and talk about new directions for the Japanese nation.  

Perhaps the segment of the Japanese literary world where the seismic forces of 3/11 were felt most strongly, however, was the poetic world.  Many Japanese newspapers include regular columns that include free verse (shi), tanka, or haiku poems, but in just the few days after 3/11, poetry began to emerge from those small columns and take a more prominent place in the news, eventually finding its way into a central position in the discourse that had started unfolding across the nation. Poetry exploded into the mainstream, serving as one of the ways that the nation thought about and processed its own complicated feelings about the disasters. 

Because I was in Japan at the time and experienced the quakes, numerous aftershocks, and anxiety personally, I have been unable to forget it.  After a few weeks of uncertainty and great worry, everything I had come to Japan to do was cancelled, and so I cut my stay short and returned to the United States ahead of schedule.   As one way of working through the experience and my complicated feelings about returning to America, I began translating a number of poems about the quake and the resulting disasters, mostly poems written by poets whom I admire.  Most of those translations have been published in various journals, mostly online. 

Here is a collection of links to some of those translations.  Some appear with the original Japanese.  Most of the poems first appeared in the May 2011 special issue of Handbook of Contemporary Poetry 『現代詩手帖』dedicated to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.  Some were also published in a special section in the daily newspaper Asahi shinbun published in commemoration of the first anniversary of the quake.  Others were published in various magazines or newspapers, but still, these poems are only the tiniest tip of the iceberg.  There are thousands upon thousands more poems out there.

TANIKAWA Shuntarō: “Words” 
谷川俊太郎「ことば」

WAGŌ Ryōichi: Pebbles of Poetry (Part I)
和合亮一『詩の礫』抄

TAKAHASHI Mutsuo: “These Things Here and Now”
高橋睦郎「いまここにこれらのことを」

YOSHIMASU Gōzō: “at the side (côtés) of poetry”
吉増剛造「詩のcôtésに」

ITŌ Hiromi: “Cooking, Writing Poetry”
伊藤比呂美「料理する、詩を書く」

ARAI Takako: "Half a Pair of Shoes" and "Galapagos"
新井高子「片方の靴」と「ガラパゴス」

HIRATA Toshiko: “Do Not Tremble” and "Please"
平田俊子「ゆれるな」と「どうか」

TANAKA Yōsuke: “Screaming Potato Field”
田中庸介「叫ぶ芋畑」

OHSAKI Sayaka: “Noisy Animal”
大崎紗香「うるさい動物」

Jeffrey ANGLES: “Return After Earthquake”
ジェフリー・アングルス「地震後の帰国」

I just read Peter Minter’s essay about Japan, poetry, translation, and the productive power of forgetting in Southern Review.  From it comes this haunting passage.  Check out the entire essay by clicking here.

Against the sheer existential horror of all we forget, each poem in a life becomes a fugitive, delicately precise machine for remembering an event and its organic dislocations. A poem is like an ark for a moment or series of moments, a small vessel amidst a sea of epic or reflexive forgetfulness that we glide off headlong toward our friends and readers or indeed future selves. Perhaps that is what our species has been doing for thousands of years, making poems to send information forward and outward so others can see and remember. Madeleines for the survivors. Holographs of the forgotten. Genealogies of invisibility.