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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

Haruki Murakami, Monkey Business, & Translation

(from The New Yorker)


Lost in Translation?

haruki murakami may 290 Haruki Murakami, Monkey Business, & Translation

Last month, Haruki Murakami published a new novel in Japan. Before anyone could read it, the novel broke the country’s Internet pre-order sales record, its publisher announced an advance print run of half a million copies, and Tokyo bookstores opened at midnight to welcome lines of customers, some of whom read the book slumped in corners of nearby cafés straight after purchase. But this time, the mania was déjà vu in Japan—a near-replica of the reception that greeted Murakami’s last novel, “1Q84,” three years ago. The response was news to nearly no one. Except, maybe, Haruki Murakami.

“The fact that I have been able to become a professional working novelist is, even now, a great surprise to me,” Murakami wrote in an e-mail three days before the release of “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.” He added: “In fact, each and every thing that has happened over the past 34 years has been a sequence of utter surprise.” The real surprise, perhaps, is that Murakami’s novels now incite a similar degree of anticipation and hunger outside of Japan, even though they are written in a language spoken and read by a relatively small population on a distant and parochial archipelago in the North Pacific.


(continue reading)

Haruki Marakami in Kyoto

The following article from The Asahi Shimbun site on novelist

Haruki Murakami includes an anecdote about Hayao Kawai,

the late Jungian psychologist after whom a new literary prize–

with Murakami its first recipient–has been named.



Haruki Murakami: I live an ordinary life

May 13, 2013

By KAE MORISHITA/ Shukan Asahi Weekly Magazine

Reclusive novelist Haruki Murakami surprised and delighted the audience when he opened up about several topics during his recent speech at Kyoto University. Smiling and cracking jokes, the best-selling author and Nobel Prize contender was in high spirits from start to finish.

Murakami, 64, began his speech by saying, “I do not usually appear in public, but this is a special occasion, so I have emerged like a ‘kappa’ (a water goblin haunting mainly rivers). You may ask why I do not go out in public. I am a person who lives an ordinary life. I take the subway and bus to move around, and I shop at stores in my neighborhood. It would be troublesome if I was often approached on the street as a result of appearing on TV.”

Murakami told a funny anecdote about his daily life.

“Years ago, I went to renew my driver’s license. A staff member at the counter repeatedly called, ‘Haruki Murakami.’ When I went to the counter, the person asked me, ‘You have the same name as that famous novelist, don’t you?’ I answered ‘yes.’ I am like an endangered Iriomote wildcat. I beg you not to come close and touch me.”

The speech and interview, held May 6 at Kyoto University, was titled “Tamashii wo Miru, Tamashii wo Kaku” (Seeing a soul, writing a soul). The event was held to commemorate the establishment of the Kawai Hayao Monogatari-sho, Gakugei-sho (Kawai Hayao story prize and literary prize), in honor of the late psychologist Hayao Kawai.

During the event, Murakami touched on his friendship with Kawai.

“I rarely call someone ‘sensei’ (teacher), but I spontaneously called him Kawai-sensei,” Murakami said.

He also related one of Kawai’s puns: “(Kawai said that) one day the prime minister was late for a Cabinet meeting (when Kawai served as commissioner for cultural affairs). The prime minister apologized to the Cabinet ministers, saying, ‘I am sorry, I am sorry (a pun on ‘sori,’ Japanese for prime minister).’ “

“He was such a thoroughly silly man,” Murakami added.

To continue reading.

“Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine” by Mari L’Esperance & Thomas Q. Morin

Much-celebrated contemporary American poet Philip Levine

is the subject of Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine,

(Prairie Lights Press, 2013) a newly published compilation of essays

on Levine as teacher/mentor edited by Mari L’Esperance (2007

Poetry Kanto contributor) and Thomas Q. Morin.


philip levine Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine by Mari LEsperance & Thomas Q. Morin






After reading this book, if you don’t have a new-found appreciation

and respect for the poet and the man– Philip Levine– your heart is

simply beyond reach, if not repair.



[excerpt below from Kathy Fagan's essay "Homage to Mr. Levine"

in Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine (Prairie Lights

Books, 2013)]


“We are all of us breakable, but the unformed thing is especially

fragile. There is a tenderness to most young people. I am gentle

with my students because Mr. Levine was, in every essential way,

gentle with kme; I attend their poems with seriousness because Mr.

Levine attended to mine with seriousness. Writing of his teacher,

John Berryman,  Phil comments on Berryman’s ability to  “devestate

the students’ poems without crushing the students’ spirits.” Alas,

there is no poet or teacher good enough to teach someone how to

survive a life, much less a life of poetry. But Mr. Levine comes

close. There is only one Phil Levine: just my luck.”



[excerpt below from Dante Micheaux's essay "The Capricorn's

Pedagogy" in Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine.]


“As much revelry as was had that night, it could not compare to

the near sublime and fondest memory I keep of Phil. Two or three

weeks before our festivities, we were having a rather ordinary

workshop. Phil usually had an anecdote from the weekend or

earlier day, which would lead him to some recollection about

Fresno or line by Cesar Vallejo and then we would get down to

business. Yet, this night he somehow got onto William Carlos

Williams and, for a few moments, was completely gripped by

“The Sparrow.” He leaned over the table, his eyes glossy with

remembering, and began a recitation. Silence. The awe of being

in the company of a great name again. The agon, visible and

pulsating. In hindsight, those lines were Phil’s ultimate lesson:


Practical to the end,

it is the poem

of his existence

that triumphed


a wisp of feathers

flattened to the pavement,

wings spread symmetrically

as if in flight,

the head gone,

the black estucheon of the breast


an effigy of sparrow,

a dried wafer only,

left to say

and says it

without offense,


This was I,

a sparrow.

I did my best;







for more about Philip Levine 


a videotaped Library of Congress reading, 2011:


video object Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine by Mari LEsperance & Thomas Q. Morin







alan banner s Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine by Mari LEsperance & Thomas Q. Morin

Poet Mari L’Esperance at KGU

Award-winning poet and editor Mari L’Esperance

on April 18, 2013 visited Kanto Gakuin University in

Yokohama, Japan where she kindly shared poems from

her 2008 collection The Darkened Temple and engaged

students about their responses to her work.


Mari’s latest book, co-edited with poet Thomas Q. Morin, is

Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine, a collection

of essays from various contributors in homage to contemporary

American poet and recent Laureate of the U.S. Philip Levine.

(see future blogpost)




 Poet Mari LEsperance at KGU
“Guest” poet Mari L’Esperance with Alan Botsford & his American poetry class students


 Poet Mari LEsperance at KGU
Poet Mari L’Esperance & Alan Botsford


Mari L’Esperance’s poetry page at Poetry Kanto.


For her visit to KGU, Mari read two wonderful poems from

her 2008 collection, “Prayer” and “Grief is Deep Green.” Posted

below is a third poem which she had planned to read but didn’t,

for lack of time, entitled “The Bush Warbler Laments to the






– Mari L’Esperance



I offered you sanctuary with one condition.

Even this much you could not hold.


When you looked into the forbidden chamber,

my three daughters became birds

and flew away from me forever.


Memory of our transgressions is a stone. It lies

on the seabed of our deepest forgetting.


–regret and sorrow in the making


Before you came I swept this house daily

with a long broom of rice straw.


Often I would wander from room to room,

touching each treasure as I passed:


a golden screen, three red laquer bowls–

Now, all is dust suspended in late sunlight.


This forest house, with its paper doors and secrets,

is too large for me now. Let it dissolve in mist

and absence, no trace left for the lost children.


What am I but the flower of your deepest self?


   — crushed chrysanthemum petals underfoot


Instead, I am cast out across vast distances,

circling far above the trees, never to be human.


You will say that a grand house once stood

in a forest clearing. Then: nothing but birdcalls.


Longing itself is nothing but the heart’s open spaces.


  — regret and sorrow, come calling


If I could make it so, I would be the one left alone

in the meadow, rubbing my eyes and wondering.


Remember this: I, once woman,  took you in,

an exchange for a promise kept.


Three maidens startled, then transformed into birds.


Whatever you abandon returns in your dreams.




for more poems, see Mari L’Esperance’s poetry page at Poetry Kanto.








alan banner s Poet Mari LEsperance at KGU




Sarah Arvio podcast interview on “night thoughts”


Acclaimed poet Sarah Arvio is interviewed by J.P. Dancing Bear

in his “Out of Our Minds” radio interview series. Sarah’s newest

book, “night thoughts: 70 dream poems & notes from an analysis,”

is the subject of the interview, along with her process of writing

the book, which, as is discussed, grew out of the similarities

between dreams and poetry.


listen to podcast here


for more on this remarkable book at amazon, click here.


another audio commentary on the book, with readings of

several poems, can be found at Sarah’s website here.


a few of Sarah’s earlier poems appeared in Poetry Kanto 2006





alan banner s Sarah Arvio podcast interview on night thoughts


Alan Botsford’s website

Along with recently building the new Poetry Kanto website,

I created a small website of my own which will be in ongoing

development. Please do visit. I would welcome your input or

comments. The website can be found here.


The Treachery of Translators (NYT)

 [Article by Andy Martin for The New York Times.]

The Treachery of Translators




January 28, 2013,


The fact is, there were always going to be a lot of fish in “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers.” When a publishing house commissioned me to produce a new translation of Jules Verne’s 19th-century underwater epic, I was confident of bringing a degree of joyous panache to the story of Captain Nemo, his submarine, the Nautilus and that giant killer squid. But I had forgotten about its systematic taxonomy of all the inhabitants of the seven seas.

Somewhere around page 3 of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” I got this feeling that I was starting to drown in fish. There are an awful lot of fish down there, and there were possibly even more in the middle of the 19th century. Whereas my ichthyological vocabulary, whether in French or English or indeed any other language, was severely limited. The fish (and assorted oceanic mammals), in other words, far outnumbered my linguistic resources. I now know I should just have boned up on fish, the way any decent, respectable translator would have done.

(Note to the decent, respectable translator: I teach a college class on translation but I accept your critique that I am long on theory and short on practice.)

Instead I started counting how many pages there were and calculating how much I was getting paid per fish. It didn’t add up. I realize now that I should have switched to “Around the World in Eighty Days” – there are far fewer fish in that one.

My brilliant translating career hit another high when a French publisher invited me to translate Brigitte Bardot’s memoirs, “Initiales BB.” I had written a memoir about my childhood obsession with Bardot, so I said O.K. and suggested some modest revisions. It would have to be completely re-written from top to bottom and I would definitely take out all those exclamation marks. And I would put back in that affair with the English guy after she married Gunter Sachs – she should never have left that out! They took that as a “non.” Tant pis. All translators rewrite and rectify. Some even feel that they can do a better job of writing Bardot’s life than Bardot.

The law of karma is as unforgiving in the realm of translation as in any other and I was overdue for a taste of my own punishment. I had written a book about surfing in Hawaii called “Walking on Water,” which was eventually translated into Dutch. I had nothing to do with the translation and was simply presented with a fait accompli. My command of Dutch is negligible, but I thought I would test out “Lopen over water” by reference to a metaphor that was, if not my greatest contribution to literature, at least distinctively my own. There was a passage where I was drowning, but not feeling too put out about it, and I had written: “Death was warm and embracing like porridge.” I zeroed in on the sentence, but I couldn’t find anything even closely related to porridge. So I checked with a Dutch-speaking friend – could she tell me how the translator had done it?

“You’d better sit down,” she said.

The translator had not given my immortal metaphor the time of day. He had the same kind of hang-up about porridge that I had about fish. He took a shortcut right round it, passing seamlessly from the previous sentence to the one following. The porridge had not been lost in translation; it had been quite deliberately eradicated.

(to continue, click here.)

101 Modern Japanese Poems, anthology


February 24, 2013


A new anthology of modern Japanese poetry in English is reviewed by

writer and critic David Cozy today in The Japan Times. The review

makes clear that, “despite the admirable and sustained efforts of the

journal Poetry Kanto, and the tireless work of translators such as Jeffrey

Angles, Hiroaki Sato and, with this collection, Paul McCarthy, modern

Japanese poetry remains little known outside the archipelago.” That said,

he adds, “There’s no question, therefore, that this book is necessary.”


For the complete review of 101 MODERN JAPANESE POEMS, 

compiled by Makoto Ooka, translated by Paul McCarthy, edited by

Janine Beichman, click here.

The Ecopoetry Anthology

Ann Fisher-Wirth (Poetry Kanto 2012 & 2006 contributor) and Laura

Gray-Street have co-edited the new “The Ecopoetry Anthology.”

62367 10151655528183238 1265145192 n The Ecopoetry Anthology


In the  preface to their book they address the question of how to

define ‘ecopoetry’:


Nature poetry has existed as long as poetry has existed. Around

1960, however, public attention increasingly turned to the

burgeoning environmental crisis, and nature poetry began to

reflect this concern. In recent decades, the term “ecopoetry”

has come into use to designate poetry that in some way is

shaped by and responds specifically to that crisis. The term

has no precise definition and rather fluid boundaries, but some

things can usefully be said about it. Generally, this poetry

addresses contemporary problems and issues in ways that are

ecocentric and that respect the integrity of the other-than-human

world. It challenges the belief that we are meant to have

dominion over nature and is skeptical of a hyperrationality that

would separate mind from body–and earth and its creatures

from human beings–and that would give preeminence to

fantasies of control. Some of it is based in the conviction that

poetry can help us find our way back to an awareness that we

are at one with the more-than-human world.


They group the book’s generous contents into three categories–nature

poetry, environmental poetry, and ecological poetry. These groupings

are intended, the editors say, as a starting point or as a nexus of

interactions that constitute an ecopoetry which allows for capacities,

they argue, of “contemplation, activism, and self-reflexivity.”


Their selection of poets runs the gamut from the historical–over 100

pages long, beginning with Whitman and on to modernists like

Stevens, Pound, Eliot, Crane and Hughes– to the contemporary,

which includes 176 poets, arranged alphabetically, from A.R.

Ammons to Robert Wrigley. Variety is the keyword here, as well as

excellence as a standard applied to the poems they have selected.

Which makes this anthology a pleasure to engage with.


“The Ecopoetry Anthology,” with an introduction by Robert Hass, is

available here.


Call for submissions, Poetry Kanto 2013

February 14, 2013


Poetry Kanto is currently open to reading submissions

for its 2013 issue. The reading period will continue through

June. The new issue will be published digitally–its first–in

the Fall. For further details, please see the ‘Submit’ page on

the recently relaunched Poetry Kanto website.