Published by the Kanto Poetry Center at Kanto Gakuin University, Poetry Kanto publishes English translations of Japanese poems (along with the originals) and “exciting English language poetry from anywhere on the globe.” The journal is handsomely produced and clearly an effort of editors passionate about poets and poetry. The work of ten poets is presented here, each series of poems preceded by a long bio and photo of the poet.
The issue opens with co-editor Alan Botsford’s lyrical, almost dreamy “Note.” Poetry, he says, will “go down and then come back up again telling us what we don’t know is another thing entirely. If tears flow sometimes, go with it. If fears glow at other times, walk beside them. Show your compassion and forgiveness, say how much you understand that your undoing is not their doing when, undone, you’re merely a shadow of yourself on the trail to a new body, loved into words.”
Loved into words this issue is the work of Kurahar Shinjirô (1889-1965; author of six books though he is little known today) with its delicate nature imagery—
1200 years ago
the image that one potter left behind
lies in a thicket of sorrels
in the twilight.
The roots of the sorrels are colored in evening glow.
Also the work of Ayukawa Nobuo (1920-1988), a Japanese poet who is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, with its surprising and powerful conclusions (“You are playing dead forever, aren’t you?”); Kisaka Ryo, decidedly contemporary (“This moment in the city, left unclaimed… / I picture / the bean-sized lamps / on all the phones scattered throughout the sprawling metropolis / and have them stand for stars”); Alicia Ostriker, J.P. Dancing Bear, Katherine Riegel, Bill Wolak, Ginger Murchison, Temple Cone, Judy Halebsky, and Yoko Danno, which includes a long prose poem (presented in English and Japanese), “A Woman in a Blue Robe,” with its curious and compelling beginning:
Who are you?
Why are you here?
Where are you from?
Who are your parents?
May I have your name?
Do I have to answer all of your questions right now when I’m totally occupied with finding a trash can? Don’t be disturbed by my apparition, noble Monk.
Poetry in English reflects a predilection for lyrical elegance and control, as in Murchison’s spare and moving “The Pear Tree”: "that, for years, flowered / has fallen / home to the borers."
Similarly refined and restrained are Riegel’s list poem “Hydra,” composed of the thoughts of “Charlotte Alessio Manier, a 4 year-old, on looking at her reflection in the back of a silver pinwheel”); J. P. Dancing Bear’s “Gacela of the Beethovens” (“We should not speak in solitudes; like Beethoven lying / in the coffin of his piano.”); and Cone’s “Orchard” (“All night, the gambrels creaked / and the orchard turned to dew.”)
Halebesky’s bilingual (English/Japanese) work is striking. (She has lived in Tokyo for the last three years.) “Ocean Beach to Tokyo,” concludes:
I would fall for you with branches
with asteroids, feathers, pollen spores
petals, parking tickets
a plane could crash
we could survive
This little journal, with its cross-cultural inspiration and impact, could make any reader of English interested in Japanese poetry, and any Japanese reader interested in poetry in English. Could as in will.