For poet Sawako Nakayasu, 45, a multicultural upbringing is what forged her distinctive perspective of language and artistic expression. Nakayasu was born in Yokohama and moved to the United States with her family when she was six. Although she was raised mostly in the U.S., Nakayasu also lived in France and China. In 2002, Nakayasu, who was already a published poet by then, became interested in translation while earning her Master of Fine Arts at Brown University.

“The people important to me at the time, my professors — Keith Waldrop, Rosmarie Waldrop, Forrest Gander — were doing it,” she says, “and I understood intuitively that it was a fascinating kind of engagement with literature. At that time, I translated from French because that was my stronger second language and because we were told, as an exercise, to translate something that already had a translation.”

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