Books | POETRY MIGNETTE

Speaking to both the eye and the ear

by Taylor Mignon

Poet Keiichi Nakamura first wrote tanka, and then composed monotype lithographs after graduating from the University of Sapporo. Later he created collages in which he explored the fusion of poetry with images.

He became interested in mail art (art which is circulated by post among artists themselves, circumventing galleries and the established art market) after reading Shozo Shimamoto’s book “Geijutsu wa Hito o Odorokasu Koto (Art is Meant to Disturb),” half of which is composed of mail art.

Nakamura’s initiation into the international world of visual poetry occurred after he replied to a postcard from Shimamoto. His address, which he had included in his reply, was further sent or “recycled” into a network in Europe, and he was asked to send a visual poem for Guillermo Deisler’s journal UNI/vers(;) in 1994.

His contact with the main practitioners of visual poetry deepened when his work was included in an exhibit in Belgrade in 1997 organized by Klaus Peter Dencker, and he has recently collaborated with Pierre Garnier, founder of the ’60s Spatialist movement. Spatialism used the idea of space as an aesthetic, formal and semiotically-charged stance that stressed the signifying power of the physical and literal space between letters.

Garnier first worked with poet Seiichi Niikuni in the mid-’60s for the book “Poemes franco-japonais” (which was later reprinted in Emmett William’s “Anthology of Concrete Poetry”), and has recently composed Constructionist poems.

“B & B: Book & Box,” an exhibition of Nakamura and Garnier’s works, is currently being held in Tokyo, along with work by Takako Hasekura, Kazushi Kobayashi, Teruko Kunimine, Wataro Mitsuhashi and Yutaka Nakayama.

“B & B: Book & Box,” until Dec. 22 at Gallery Oculus, (03) 3445-5088, a ten-minute walk from JR Shinagawa Station. Open 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Recent publications

  * In my September column, I wrote about the innovative poetry bar Howl. Proprietor and graphic designer Maki Fujimoto has created another quirky concept with SPITTOON, a stunning collection of photographs and writings on colored B4-sized pages in a black envelope. Contributors include Beat translator Tetsuo Nakagami, record producer and Patti Smith translator Gaku Torii and poet Masayo Koike. SPITTOON is available for 400 yen at the Le Sang des Poetes cafe at Howl.

  * A B5-sized bilingual chapbook on W. C. Williams has been produced by Masayo Koike for Broken Blue Umbrella Corp. Prefaced by D. W. Wright’s short essay on Williams are Williams’ poems “Approach to a City,” “To a Dog Injured in the Street” and “The Mental Hospital Garden” (in both English and Japanese). Available at Kitazawa Books for 500 yen.

  * Issue No. 12, 2001 of Land and Sea Winds: International Poetry Exchange Magazine (published in Kyoto) takes up the theme “Listening and Seeing,” and includes contributions from Robert Bly and Joseph Brodsky.

  * “Masters of Modern Japanese Poetry: Six Distinctive Voices of the Postwar Era” (Watch Word) is a bilingual book and two companion CDs of the work of Yukio Tsuji, Kiyoko Nagase, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Rin Ishigaki, Michio Mado and Hiromi Itoh (who reads her work bilingually). Available at Poem Parole in Libro bookstore in Seibu department store in Ikebukuro.