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‘Tokyo Poetry Journal’ is back, this time exploring the beats

by Iain Maloney

Contributing Writer

The fifth issue of the Tokyo Poetry Journal (ToPoJo) shows it has the scope of ambition and the depth of talent to become a lasting landmark in Japan’s English-language poetry scene. This issue focuses on the way in which U.S. beat poets such as Ginsberg, Snyder, and Rexroth were influenced by Japan and how in turn their work influenced Japanese poets such as Nanao Sakaki and Kazuko Shiraishi. It also examines the roots of Japan’s beat and hippy movements, showing that Japanese poets were traveling a similar path long before encountering their U.S. peers.

Tokyo Poetry Journal 5: Japan and the Beats, Edited by Taylor Mignon.
210 pages
TOKYO POETRY JOURNAL, Poetry.

One of the pleasures of ToPoJo is its multi-format, multi-layered approach. Moving beyond curating poetry, editor-in-chief Taylor Mignon brings in reflective essays, personal memoirs, translated interviews and correspondence between poets. This layering foregrounds the work of the poets while allowing expression of the ideas behind the work, the influence it had on later poets and their responses. A number of the poems directly address individual poets such as Sam Hamill’s “To Kenneth Rexroth” and Hillel Wright’s “Dreaming of Allen Ginsberg.”

While the theme dominates the issue, ToPoJo is also committed to showcasing the work of contemporary poets. New work from Leza Lowitz, Susan Sullivan and Miho Nonaka impresses, as does Philip Rowland’s “Scattered Tokyo Poems.” Each issue is accompanied by readings across the capital that are, Mignon says, key to experiencing the book: “The two are complimentary. The readings and performances bring the work alive.”