Japanese Poetry in Translation

Saturday 31 August

Venue: White Rock Hotel

10.30 to 12.00

Tickets: £7.50, students £5.50

Dr Nadine Willems, lecturer in Japanese History, and Paul Rossiter of Isobar Press. Introduction by Antony Mair.

Kotan Chronicles by Genzō Sarashina takes the reader into the lives of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido, and their interaction with Japanese settlers in the 1920s and 1930s, a period when the traditional world of the kotan, or Ainu village, was being destroyed by the rapid development of the island. With a distinctive and powerful artistic voice, vividly captured in Nadine Willems‘ translation, the poems probe this extraordinary cultural encounter in Japan’s far north, depicting both the beauty of the Hokkaido landscape and the back-breaking work required to survive there in an era of economic hardship. Kotan Chronicles constitutes an exceptional witness of its times.

Such a rare treat – one of the few examples of Japanese proletarian poetry to appear in English… Sarashina allows multiple voices and dialects into his writing, which makes the job of translator especially difficult. This courageous version not only captures the colloquial, multivocal style of the original poems, but also constitutes an important document in the recuperation of pre-war Japanese poetry.’ – Eric Selland

These valuable translations, prefaced by an expertly written scholarly introduction…These starkly beautiful poems document the complexity of existence at the intersection of Japanese-settler and Ainu historical experience, in years marked by struggle and privation throughout the empire.’ – Paul D. Barclay, Chair of Asian Studies, Lafayette College

Dr Nadine Willems

is a Belgian national who studied and worked in Japan for twenty years until returning to the UK in 2008 to pursue a career in academia.

She obtained a PhD in History from the University of Oxford in 2015 and currently teaches Japanese History at the University of East Anglia. She specialises in the intellectual and cultural history of modern Japan, with a focus on the politics and literature of dissent in the first decades of the twentieth century. As a translator and historian, she has a particular interest in the works of poets native to the northern regions of Hokkaido and Tohoku. Nadine has has translated the work of Sarashina Genzō , pre-war poet, farmer, anarchist, and Ainu ethnographer in Kotan Chronicles.

Paul Rossiter,

who will read the poetry in translation, was born in Cornwall in 1947, and has lived in Japan since 1981. He retired from teaching at the University of Tokyo in 2012, and in the following year founded Isobar Press, which specialises in English-language poetry from Japan.

The press has so far published twenty-six books, including English translations of modernist Japanese poetry, individual volumes by Japanese poets who write in English, and work by British, Irish, American and Canadian poets living in Japan. Seven books of his own poetry have been published, including From the Japanese (2013), World Without (2015), Seeing Sights (2016), and Temporary Measures (2017), all from Isobar Press.

Antony Mair

Antony Mair has written poetry all his life, while working in the legal profession and as an estate agent in France.

In Let the wounded speak, his poetry touches on a wide variety of subjects, including slavery, gay identity, war, Muslim radicalisation and abuse in the Roman Catholic church. Above all, he believes that love brings healing and hope.

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