“Sonic Peace,” which won the Chuya Nakahara Prize in 2006, is in the classic “artist-versus-modernity” vein. It rings with contemporary loneliness, solitary figures awake in the night and vending machines glowing in the gloom. Many of the voices are personified electronic devices, our phones and computers looking back at us from the “blue-darkness.” The threat of surveillance, of being watched, pervades the work, which is rooted in the artificiality of modern Tokyo. As the voice in “March Road” says, even the horizon is counterfeit.

The book is split into three phases, and each poem is presented first in Japanese, followed by the translation. Phase Two opens with “Coelacanth Weather,” whose first stanza could stand for the whole collection: “In an alley in Akihabara / there’s a shop where they sell / words made of plastic.” We’re in Akihabara, home of the weird, of the electronic, where the blending of vital and virtual is celebrated, where nature and spirituality are absent. We’re down an alley, a tangent. Here, words are commodities to be traded — and what trade done in an alley is ever wholesome?

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