Books

Through 'Different Gates' of expression

by Taylor Mignon

For nearly a decade, Tom Dow has coordinated and helped organize the Tokyo Writers Workshop in Takadanobaba every third Sunday 1-5 p.m. TWW was founded as the Tokyo English Literary Society by Thomas Ainaly in 1977 and the publication that contained many of the members’ work became Printed Matter.

Though the current TWW has no official connection with the journal, Tom Dow was the poetry editor for PM for several years and his second book of poems, “Different Gates,” was published under the PM imprint in 1995. Dow’s relationship with poetry in Japan has not only been as an editor and director but also as a generous contributor to journals of small press such as The Plaza, Kirin no Me and Yomimono. In the U.S. his work has appeared in Evergreen Chronicles, Peal (a journal which welcomes submissions from Japan-based poets), and forthcoming in the new periodical publishing short poetry, “Tundra.”

To mark Dow’s repatriation and to celebrate his poetry, a reading to feature Dow will take place at the library of Temple University Japan on Feb. 25, 6-8 p.m. This TUJ series features an accomplished poet in a comfortable lounge next to racks of poetry volumes and journals of scholarly and general interest, providing a relaxing atmosphere (along with wine, bread and cheese) to contemplate readings and engage the participants. Below are two of Dow’s shorter, untitled works. In this October morningdrizzle,tucked at the foot of the large jade plant,a rounded loaf of river rock is half shiny like a frog,and half dull gray and dry:I remember I’m leaving Japan soon.Colleague: until now, we’ve only met at committee meetings,both of us sitting with our hands nicely folded,like cats smiling while dreaming of some savage act.But just now come around a corner,you’re on a Harley, drenched in black leather. Hi.

For information on the Tokyo Writers Workshop, or the poetry reading series held at Temple University Japan, contact John Gribble at (03) 3395-8185.

Naoshi Koriyama’s poetry and translation work act as a bridge across the Pacific beyond linguistic borders. Born in Kikai Island, he first started writing poery at the State University of New York at Albany before The Christian Science Monitor started printing his work. After a break in writing in the early ’60s, the stimulus to compose poetry occurred when Atsuo Nakagawa and James Kirkup founded Poetry Nippon, an English-language poetry magazine in 1967. A few members of Poetry Nippon included Yorifumi Yaguchi, Neal H. Lawrence, Takuro Ikeda and Edith Shiffert.

Over four decades of verse written in English (and even in Middle English), as well as Japanese and French translation from the original English, appear in his “Collected Poems” from Hokuseido Press. Koriyama’s strong Romantic influences are indicated by titles referring to John Keats, G.M. Hopkins and Chaucer. With poet and jazz pianist Edward Leuders, Koriyama cotranslated and edited the anthology “Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan” (Copper Canyon Press). His latest coeditorial project resulted in the “Poetry Nippon Anthology 1967-1999.” Below is Koriyama’s “Love Song” from the latter anthology.

Our island forefathers wovemany a beautiful melodywith the warp of moonlightand the woof of the singing seaunder the island skyover many generations.The white sockson your feetsmoothly danceover the floorto the lovely tuneof the “Island Blues,”while an indescribable feeling flowsin the bloodstreamthrough my heart,and your hair smellsas sweet as the lilyon the hillsideof our islandin the wide blue sea. Naoshi Koriyama at Ben’s Cafe’s “Power of the Spoken Word,” Feb. 27, 6 p.m.

The Association for International Renku has published an elegant volume of their works, “Wind Arrow.” The book is completely bilingual with beautiful color artwork on the front and back cover. AIR was started in 1989 and counts as its members recognized renku authority Tadashi Kondo and Kristen Deming, former haiku columnist for The Japan Times. “Getting Started with Renku,” an essay cataloging basic renku techniques by Kondo, is mandatory reading for those interested in the form. In “Wind Arrow” see the pampas grass/ all along the way to shrine (Patricia Donegan) and also observe my moving hat/ a blue fluttering flower/ to this seaside bee (Sanford Goldstein). Much prose (“A Monologue on Umbrella-Handles”) and a letter from the editor make this a lively treat.

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