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‘Something Other Than Other’: The poetry of Philip Rowland captures quotidian Tokyo life

by

Special To The Japan Times

Tokyo poet Philip Rowland’s third full-length collection of verse, “Something Other Than Other,” quietly resonates with profound images of the quotidian humanity he finds around him.

Something Other Than Other, by Philip Rowland.
96 pages
ISOBAR PRESS, Poetry.

Published last year by Isobar Press in Tokyo, the collection is a showcase for the playful power Rowland holds over his words. Organized into four sections, the book is a finely woven tapestry of forms ranging from found poems to pithy musings, tanka and haiku, all exhibiting a mastery of line and space — proof that Rowland is a craftsman who is confident with his tools.

Especially worthy of note, in the second section titled “Surveillance,” is a series of vignettes documenting Rowland’s observations about strangers and the lives they lead in and around his neighborhood in Shinjuku Ward.

By rendering details from the banal to the sublime, Rowland transforms the essence of commuting, that inescapable facet of life in the city, into an act of communing with humanity. His insight captures life on the page, urging the reader to stop, consider and reconsider the moment, wherever it happens to be passing.

By the final section, the use of hushed white space hypnotizes, accentuating the words that follow: “a delay in large leaves” alone on one page; “breeze a synonym for ash” on another.

Rowland, who also edits the online poetry journal NOON, has provided an honest and uplifting portrayal of the lives of people in the city in a small volume that packs a lot between its pages.