Four From Japan

Contemporary Poetry & Essays by Women

by Kiriu Minashita, Kyong-Mi Park, Ryoko Sekiguchi, and Takako Arai

Introduction & translations by Sawako Nakayasu

Additional translations by: Cole Swensen, Ryoko Sekiguchi, Chet Wiener, Yu Nakai & Malinda Markham

This revolutionary volume represents the first book of its kind, a bilingual anthology dedicated to women working in modern and cross cultural poetry milieus.

Published collaboratively by Belladonna Books and Litmus Press in honor of the Festival of Contemporary Japanese Women Poets with support by the New York State Council on the Arts.

Kiriu Minashita was born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1970. Since beginning her poetic activities around the year 2000, she has come to be acknowledged as one of the representative poets of the “00 generation.” After receiving the Gendaishitecho Prize in 2003, she published her first collection of poetry, Sonic Peace, in 2005. The same book was awarded the Nakahara Chuya prize in 2006, also having been nominated for the H-Prize. In 2007, her second book of poetry, Border Z, will be published through Shichosha’s New Poets series. In addition to poetry, Minashita is known for extensive critical writings on literature, as well as numerous academic papers concerning topics such as health care ethics and welfare sociology. She also teaches courses on subjects which range from sociology and public policy to philosophy and literature, at several universities in Tokyo.

Kyong-Mi Park was born in 1956 and is a second-generation Korean living and writing in Tokyo. Since publishing her first book of poetry Supu (Soup) in 1980, she has continued to publish numerous works of poetry and prose in major Japanese publications including La Mer, Waseda Bungaku, Ginka and Asahi Weekly. She is noted for her translations of Gertrude Stein: The World is Round (1987) and Geography and Plays (co-translation 1992), in addition to other translations such as Over the Moon by Mother Goose (1990). Her essays have been collected in The Guardian Spirit in a Garden: Words to Remember (1999), and There are always birds in the air (Goryu Shoin, 2004), while recent collections of poetry include That little one (Shoshi Yamada, 2003), and The cat comes with a baby cat in its mouth (Shoshi Yamada, 2006). In 2001 she participated in the exhibit Dialog 2001: Artists in Banff (Canadian Embassy Gallery, Tokyo). Park’s work has been translated into English, Korean and Serbian, with English translations published in Aufgabe, Factorial, HOW2, Green Integer Review, and Other Side River, an anthology of contemporary Japanese women’s poetry. Park currently teaches at Wako University and the Yotsuya Art Studium.

Ryoko Sekiguchi was born in 1970 in Tokyo, and has lived in Paris since 1997. Her books in Japanese include Cassiopeia Peca (1993), (com)position (1996), Diapositives Luminescentes (2000), Two Markets, Once again (2001), Tropical Botanical Garden (2004), all published by Shoshi Yamada. Since 1999 she has translated her own writing into French, including Calque (P.O.L., 2001) and Cassiopée Peca (cipM/Les compoirs de nouvelle B.S.), Héliotropes (P.O.L., 2005), Deux marchés, de nouveau (P.O.L., 2005), Série Grenade (Al Dante/Les comptoirs de la nouvelle B.S., 2006), as well as The Other Voice by Yoshimasu Gozo (Caedere, 2002), and other works by Japanese poets. Apparition is the title of a collaboration with Rainier Lericolais (Les cahiers de la Seine, 2005). She has also translated from Dari to Japanese the book Earth and Ashes by the Afghan writer and filmmaker Atiq Rahimi (Inscript, 2003).

Takako Arai was born in 1966 in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture to a family involved in textile manufacturing, a major industry in Kiryu. Her first book, Hao Bekki, was published in 1997, and her newest collection of poetry, entitled Tamashi Dance, is near completion. She was a founding editor of the journal Shimensoka between 1992 and 1995, and since 1998 she has been a contributor to, and eventually editor of Mi’Te, a monthly publication featuring poetry and criticism. Arai has also been a contributor to several publications focusing on folklore and customs, as well as a series of writings on the poet Sakutaro Hagiwara, and the butoh dancer, Kazuo Ohno. Arai currently teaches Japanese language to foreign students studying at the Center for International Exchange at Saitama University.

Sawako Nakayasu was born in Japan and has lived mostly in the US since the age of six. Her books include Texture Notes (forthcoming from Letter Machine Editions, 2010), Hurry Home Honey (Burning Deck, 2009), Nothing fictional but the accuracy or arrangement (she, (Quale Press, 2005), and So we have been given time Or, (Verse Press, 2004). Books of translations include For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut by Takashi Hiraide (New Directions, 2008) which won the 2009 Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent, as well as Four From Japan (Litmus Press / Belladonna Books, 2006) featuring four contemporary poets, and To the Vast Blooming Sky (Seeing Eye Books), a chapbook of poems by the Japanese modernist Chika Sagawa. Forthcoming from Litmus Press in 2010 is a translated collection of poems by Ayane Kawata. Nakayasu has received fellowships from the NEA and PEN, and her own work has been translated into Japanese, Swedish, Arabic, Chinese, and Vietnamese. More information can be found here.

Cole Swensen is the author of eleven books of poetry including Noon, The Book of a Hundred Hands, and Goest, which was a National Book Award Finalist. She has translated books by Pierre Alferi, Olivier Cadiot, and others, and her translation of Jean Fremon’s Island of the Dead won the PEN USA award in 2004. She is also the founder and editor of La Presse, which publishes contemporary French poetry in translation. She is on the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Chet Wiener is the author of Devant l’abondance (P.O.L, 2003) and the chapbook WalkDontWalk (Potes and Poets, 1999). He co-edited, with Stacy Doris, the collection of translations: Christophe Tarkos; Ma Langue est Poétique (Roof Books, 2000), and his poems, translations and essays on translation have appeared in publications in the United States and France. He teaches translation theory and practice at San Francisco State University.

Born in Japan and raised in the UK and Mexico, Yu Nakai often engages in music composition and performance. His works include “why not gramophone” and “pictogramophone,” performed at BankArt in Yokohama in 2004. As a scholar, his extensive research on the work of John Cage focuses on the composer’s use of media technology and its relationship to his notational methods. The result has been assembled in his MA thesis for the University of Tokyo, “The medium of silence/Silence of the medium — The manner of operation in John Cage’s work.” Since 2001, he has been involved with the Yotsuya Art Studium in various capacities — as a student, researcher, translator, instructor and editorial staff of the magazine artictoc.

Malinda Markham has an MFA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from the University of Denver. Her first book of poetry, Ninety-five Nights of Listening, won the Bakeless Prize and was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2002. She recently finished a second manuscript, Those Who Came Running. Her poems have been widely published in the US, and translations have appeared in Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, Factorial, and on the web. She currently works as an equities translator at a major securities firm in Tokyo.