Books / Reviews

'Tokyo Poetry Journal': an experimental space for Japan's English-language poets

The third issue of the “Tokyo Poetry Journal” takes music as its central theme and, rather in the manner of the Nobel Committee for Literature, has chosen to blur the lines between poetry and songwriting. The first half of the new volume features song lyrics accompanied by QR codes that, once scanned, take the reader to songs on SoundCloud. Ranging from Bob Dylan-esque acoustic numbers to bilingual hip hop tracks, the editors are to be commended for this multiplatform approach to publishing. However, reading the lyrics on paper without the musical framework renders them somewhat denuded.

Tokyo Poetry Journal Vol. 3, by Taylor Mignon.
119 pages
TOKYO POETRY JOURNAL, Poetry.

One standout piece in the second half is Ray Craig’s “Kiss Me Series,” where lines like “Kiss me with Cocteau Twins lullabies on your lips” in Sex Pistols-style lettering are presented alongside badly photocopied pictures of models, creating a wash of nostalgia. The interplay of words and visuals recalls adolescent passion and fanzine culture. Equally resonant are the haiku and paired photographs of Kit Nagamura, a longtime travel writer for The Japan Times.

Taylor Mignon and Jordan A. Y. Smith’s text on the Japanese Fluxus anti-art movement of the 1960s is another highlight. It presents and responds to unorthodox and experimental musical “scores” created by the movement, and it is in this text that the boundary between poetry and music is most successfully dissolved in the journal.

“Tokyo Poetry Journal” is proving to be fertile ground for experimentation among Japan’s English-speaking poets.

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