quick notes in the year of the dragon


At some point in the early 90s I saw a great jazz set by the Russian Dragons, a unit led by pianist Art Lande.  The group gets their name by way of a bad pun — a combination of the words rushin’ and draggin’ — that emphasizes the extreme and sudden shifts in tempo that the group specializes in.  Ever since the new year has kicked in, my own life seems to have been full of plenty of rushin’ and draggin’ — rushing around preparing for the move back to Osaka, rushing to get myself moved into the place where I’m staying in Hopland so that I can get a bit of writing done before heading back to Japan, and desperately dragging in terms of providing new posts for the Notebook.

One thing that I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time is the most recent issue of Poetry Nippon, a bilingual poetry journal that’s been published in Japan since 1967.  The latest issue contains work by Sosui (走水), Beverley George, Kiyoko Ogawa, Louise Glück, Leza Lowitz, Shinko Fushimi, Kim Jong-Gil, and many others.  There’s also an interview with me toward the back, and a new poem from a series that I’m writing called 152 Temples and ShrinesPoetry Nippon has no website, and it’s a bit of a process to order issues from Japan, but if you’re interested please leave some sort of contact information in the comment zone and I’ll let you know how it can be done (issues go for about $10 US).  Sadly, this is to be the final issue of Poetry Nippon, so if you want to get your hands on a copy of this longtime institution on the Japanese poetry scene, now’s the time.

March 11th will mark a year since the tsunami and earthquake devastated northern Japan, and with the approach of that anniversary in mind it seems appropriate to reproduce the editor’s note, written by Ikumi Yoshimura and Kiyoko Ogawa, that closes the final issue of Poetry Nippon:

On March 11th this year, Eastern Japan was hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami, suffering tremendous damages and resulting in an estimated twenty thousand victims dead or missing.  Radiation leaks, man-made disasters, followed at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.  The disaster’s scale this time was unprecedentedly large that not only our contributors living in the affected areas but many of us beyond have been feeling that this is not the time for poetry.

We deeply appreciate that they still managed to send their work on time for this magazine.  On this occasion we also express our sincere thanks to our foreign friends and even strangers, for their support and encouragement, both material and spiritual.  It is true that we turned skeptical more often than not about continuing our literary activities under these circumstances.  Although literature may not be practically useful, we wish to believe in a creating spirit.


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