Not only is Jeffrey Angles an award-winning translator of contemporary Japanese works, he’s also an award-winning Japanese poet. In 2017, the American writer received the Yomiuri Prize for Literature for his collection of poems written in Japanese, “Watashi no hizukehenkosen” (“My International Date Line”), making him one of a handful of non-Japanese writers to win the prize.

Angles, 49, first came to Japan for a four-month stint as a 15-year-old exchange student, and improved his language skills by taking courses at Ohio State University while still in high school. Drawn to poetry from an early age, Angles says not only did he love the genre, it also aided his language acquisition. “Poems are shorter than short stories or novels, of course, and it was fun to wrap my head around a poem and try to think through it,” Angles says. “I was able to do that more quickly than with longer texts, so it was an early way to build up my reading proficiency.”

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