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Updated: Jun 19

Year 2933


(translated into early third millennium Global English)


The scattered encrypted chunks of retrieved data from The Great Internets Extinction of the 22nd century have been mined extensively for clues about the lives of our ancestors. Along with the physical dig sites, they were recently transferred to our department for literary extractions, as humans are preferred over AI for this work. While still sorting through, and having heated debates over what is considered literature and what not, we want to share some of our early findings.


We have restored damaged poems from the early 21st century written in the Global vernacular of the time. Uncovered in the physical dig sites, these poems were missing about 30% of text, so we studied the surviving texts about these poets to fill in the gaps. The restorers then fill in the gaps in a poem while assuming the style of the poet in question.


We use this opportunity to also call forward anyone who might have similar ancient texts in possession to share them with us.



Archeologia Poetika Project #5

"Frequencies of Chaos" by Joy Waller


One of the best preserved poems from a time capsule in a physical dig site in Ancient Edo of the 2000s. Only a small portion of the verse was missing. The restored elements are given in bold.


Frequencies of Chaos

original by: Joy Waller

Poetry archeologists: Zoria P.K., Mat C., Ryan Dz.


Mayhem behind the nigh shift

the smiles, the fingers

of the clerks

at the convenience store, flickering


Rip-off

at the gas station cum

discotheque — worst party ever


Shinsuke fails yet again

to score us drugs

and I lay down like a fucked up princess

beside the gas pumps

to calm my eyes


He wakes me up fruitless

at sun-up

with a cinnamon bun

and a paper cup

of coffee


WE GOTTA SUIT UP FOR THE WEDDING

JOY-CHAN he says


cackling

like an old boring ever after



[*scroll to the end for the original]



The artefact we worked with.


Archeologia Poetika Project #7

"Lady of the Wild Thin Line" by Taylor Mignon


Another well-preserved artefact that we want to present.


Lady of the Wild Thin Line

Homage for Shiraishi Kazuko

original by: Taylor Mignon

Poetry archeologists: Zoria, Mat, Joy


10,000 ears take flight,

Cartilage cut the Indian contraband

Hear the stupendous succubus sucking

You to the shore of splash-fall

Paisley mutants, frolicking flock

Of seagulls lull a by, bye-bye,

Hello lullaby by the venerable Vogon

Chanted, mutually enchanted

Yr kanji voice body choking

The leaves of your kakemono

Are the fluent characters of you.

Walking into the Phryne

The whole works, like Anima Machina

As Medusa, a muse-maker

Cybele or Anatolia, the earth-shaker,

Athirat Sea of the Rays Shamallah

The all-encompassing, The ever-devouring,

You take us there, all the wackos, all the ways.




Who's Behind Archeologia Poetika?


Let's step out of character and come back to 2021 (the year of writing this post). Archeologia Poetika is a poetry restoration method of creative writing devised by Tokyo-based poet and ToPoJo Associate Editor Zoria April (Petkoska Kalajdjieva). The poetry group using the method was co-founded in 2019 by Zoria, Mat Chiappe (currently Associate Editor at ToPoJo), and Ryan Dzelzkalns. Other people who have participated so far are Joy Waller (Copy Editor at ToPoJo) and Ingrid Vera.


The Archeologia Poetika method invites us to assume the voice of a poet and write as if we were them. More specifically, to restore a poem that has missing parts. To make things more exciting, the poems are physically destroyed (burned, torn, spilled ink) and restored through group work.



The poems used so far were with the permission of the authors. Actually anyone can submit a poem to be put through destruction and reconstruction by the Archeologia Poetika group. You can contact them via topojo2015@gmail.com. Specify in the email subject line that you are writing to Archeologia Poetika.


***


Here are the original poems by Joy Waller and Taylor Mignon:


Frequencies of Chaos


Mayhem behind

the smiles

of the clerks

at the convenience store


Rip-off

at the gas station

discotheque


Shinsuke fails

to score drugs

and I lay down

beside the gas pumps

to calm my eyes


He wakes me

at sun-up

with a cinnamon bun

and a paper cup

of coffee


WE GOTTA SPLIT 
JOY-CHAN he says


cackling

like an old lady


***


Lady of the Wild Things

Homage for Shiraishi Kazuko

10,000 ears take flight, our

Cartilage cut the Indian winds

Hear the stupendous sutra call

You to the shore of splendored

Paisley elephants, frolicking flocks

of seagulls lull a by, bye bye Babylon

Hello lullaby by the verse libre

Chanted, mutually enchanted

Yr kanji voice body choice

the leaves of your kakemono

Are the fluent characters of your blood

Walking into the Phryne

The whole works, like Anima Mundi

As Medusa, a muse-maker

Cybele or Anatolia, the earth mama

Athirat Sea of the Rays Shamra

The all-encompassing, The Vierge Ouvrante

You take us there, all the way.




  • Tokyo Poetry Journal

ToPoJo is proud to announce that two new members have joined the editorial team: Zoria Petkoska Kalajdjieva and Mat Chiappe. Both have been ardent ToPoJo supporters and active in the Tokyo poetry and literature community since 2016, when they came to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies with the MEXT scholarship.


We asked them both a few questions to find out more about them.


You have contributed to Tokyo Poetry Journal before. Tell us more about your previous ToPoJo work?


Mat: The last translations from Japanese into English that I published in ToPoJo were a couple of Yoshihara Sachiko’s poems. She was a feminist pioneer, a strong and potent voice that wrote mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. The topics most common in her literature are violence and freedom. Two of her pieces, “Confession” and “Woman”, were most inspiring and moving to translate. Another poet that I translated for ToPoJo (yet one with a very different tone than Yoshihara) is Takako Arai, whose interests rely on travel and nature. I have translated a poetic essay about her trip across the Mediterranean that will see light in the upcoming issue of ToPoJo concerning Japan and the Middle East. I have also translated Latin American poets from Spanish into English for ToPoJo Volume 7: Yamato-Sepharad Constellations. These were Luisa Futoransky, Juan Gelman, José Watanabe and Ámbar Past, all of whom were linked to Japan in one way or another. A verse by Futoransky perhaps captures what many foreigners feel here in Japan: “Who has so accurately catapulted me to this final point of remoteness?”. I encourage you all to get that volume if you want to know more about those poets!


Zoria: I am forever sad to have missed the music-themed ToPoJo issue with its touches of visual poetry—my poetry would have fit in there perfectly! However, ToPoJo editor Taylor Mignon, a fellow VisPoe fan, always makes space for experimental poetry in any volume, so one of my visual poems written with punctuation only was published in vol. 6 of ToPoJo, the Butoh issue. This volume is also home to my poem “Golden Fears”, written from a prompt at the Drunk Poets See God monthly event.


Zoria's visual poem from ToPoJo Volume 6, from her Distilled Emotion: Neuromancer's Tokyo series made with the punctuation from William Gibson's cult cyberpunk classic



What’s your favorite ToPoJo moment from a launch?


Mat: The drag show for the Volume 9: Gender / Queer / Here launch was amazing. I also enjoyed the Butoh performance for Volume 6: Butoh and Poetry and the launch party for Pause :: Heartbeat by Joy Waller, because I absolutely love her poetry. I am really looking forward to resuming our live poetry reading activities. I think that one of the distinguishing features of ToPoJo is the strong emphasis it puts on performance and reading as actions equally important to composition and creation. This idea has definitely proved successful as it called upon many Japanese contemporary poets who also feel that poetry is a collective, ludic, and social activity.


Zoria: The Butoh dance performance for the Volume 6 launch lives rent-free in my head. The whole stage got destroyed as part of the performance, and to this day no one I have spoken to knows for certain whether that was choreographed or impromptu. The same event also had a mesmerizing bilingual reading by Nagae Yuki and Jordan Smith, as well as a solo performance by Nagae Yuki over a Buddhist chant. It was definitely poetry beyond poetry, and very inspiring.


Top two photos are from Volume 9 launch, bottom two photos from Volume 6 launch


What current or future projects and plans are you excited about?


Zoria: Wordigami, my book of poetry calligrams, is finally wrapping up the design phase and will be published as a trilingual book this year. In the meantime, I am obsessed with the cyberpunk poetry collection I am writing, which features everything from Neuromancer quotes to robot poems and future etymology projections. And finally, I am incredibly excited about helping the editorial team with future ToPoJo issues and dreaming of the next chance we can do a launch or a poetry event.


Mat: Despite being busy the past few years, I managed to translate Hagiwara Sakutaro’s Aoi Neko (Blue Cat) from Japanese to Spanish for a Chilean editorial house and it’s coming out in a matter of weeks. Hopefully, it will shed new light on that idea that still lingers in the Spanish-speaking world according to which the most important type of poetry in Japan is haiku. Hagiwara utterly broke that idea apart and wrote in free-verse style and daily speech, with some traits of French Symbolism. Yoshihara Sachiko, whom I hope to keep translating in the future, actually praised his poetry and highlighted his influence on her. Finally, I have also been compiling and writing a series of anecdotes and accounts about my now nearly six-year-long life in Japan. I am looking forward to publishing them in Spanish and will eventually translate them into English. Now that I have completed my Ph.D., I look forward to writing more of my own poetry and fiction. A special thanks to my poetry gang for helping me fish out the poet in me these past few months!

Zoria Petkoska K., bio

Currently working as an assistant editor and writer at Tokyo Weekender magazine, Zoria Petkoska specializes in travel writing and has written for several media outlets in Japan. She holds undergraduate and Master’s degrees in English Literature and Translation, with postgraduate research studies in Japanese visual poetry from TUFS.


She is an award-winning translator, editor in chief of the literary journal [Ш], and a published poet. Her first poetry book was published when she was 10 years old, and ever since her poetry book Wordigami she has been dedicating herself to concrete poetry. She writes in English, Macedonian, and Japanese, and has been published in poetry magazines and anthologies in Japan, China, Hong Kong, and the USA, among others.

FB Page / Instagram


Mat Chiappe, bio

A professor and researcher at Waseda University, Mat Chiappe teaches translation of Japanese literature into English and studies the links between Japanese and Latin American literature. He completed his Ph.D. at Waseda, his Master’s at El Colegio de México, and his undergraduate degree in comparative literature at the University of Buenos Aires. A published author and translator in several languages, he regularly translates poetry for the ToPoJo issues.

Follow his blog https://matchiappe.blog/

––Jordan A. Y. Smith

In the middle of a pandemic of historical proportions, it’s easy to sink into despair. It’s also precisely now that we can turn to poetry that transcends the toughest conditions, to find ways to remember that humans are always between our screaming births and the existential unknown of our deaths, while walking a hysterical tightrope of life’s various oases and alligators. It’s a perfect time, I think, to update ToPoJo’s readers on a project we’ve been developing––about poetry workshops held in prisons in the Japan and the U.S.


Prisons have long been the birthplaces of poetry. Whether as places where penitence sinks in, or where resentment festers, or where political resistance is steeled (as with Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” or Reginal Dwayne Betts, “Bastards of the Reagan Era”), for any human, time alone with one’s thoughts can yield powerful expressions. Recent years have seen a handful of projects aimed at bringing poetry into prisons in various ways, two of which caught my attention for their focus on juvenile institutions—whether prisons or so-called “detention facilities.” What kind of poetry do imprisoned or “detained” children write? What can poetry do to help them? What can their poetry teach us? How can it move us—both at the level of emotion and action?


In Japan, Poet Ryo Michiko, originally raised around Tokyo/Kanto though currently a 15-year resident of the Nara area, ran an education program at Nara Juvenile Prison from 2006-2017 in which the child inmates had the chance to try their pens and voices at poetry and other forms of expression.


Ryo’s first encounter with the prison marked her memory with an odd admixture of the strong and stately Meiji-era brick architecture and anxiety about what kinds of things the inmates had been sentenced for––which turned out to be a litany from drug abuse to murder. That first visit in September 2006 was to check out the architecture, but she ended up walking into an exhibition of the inmates’ creative work—art, writing, and more. She ended up offering a poetry course, which the prison officials allowed at the rate of one per month.


Her pedagogy was aimed at creating a safe space, without judgment, without expectations—particularly important for children who had never experienced elementary school, had been physically abused, or had suffered sustained neglect. One of the early units focused on creating poems centered on colors. A child came up with the simple poem:

空が青いから、白をえらんだのです

I chose white, because the sky is blue.

The poem stood out, and Ryo appreciated the intrigue of its ambiguous subject—who chose white, and in what sense? The answer begins with the poem’s title, “Cloud,” but there is more behind the symbol. After getting up the courage to read the poem to the group, the child, known by the initial "D" in Ryo’s book What Spilled Over was Kindness, asked if he could explain something about it. D explained that it was the seven-year memorial of his mother’s death. Even though his mother had always been weak and in poor health, his father used to beat her. D had been too young at the time to do anything to protect her. Before she died in her hospital sick bed, she had told him, “When things get tough, look up to the sky. Because I will surely be right there.” The poem had been the boy’s way of thinking through his mother’s perspective, or so he imagined based on her dying promise.


Another child remarked, “I’ve never seen my mother, but after reading your poem, whenever I look up at the sky, I feel like see her.” Others shared very similar feelings.

Over time, Ryo and the class developed a practice of offering some positive words for each poem, but some poems were harder to praise. Take this poem, “My Favorite Color” (すきな色):

My favorite color

is blue

My second favorite color

is red


ぼくのすきな色は

青色です

つぎにすきなの色は

赤色です

As generous a critic as Ryo has become, she was still stumped. One of the kids saved the day, raising a hand and offering, “Hey, I loved how you told us not only one color you liked, but two!” Other young critics agreed. Something as simple as learning two whole colors another human likes. The smallest bits of personal information feel all the more precious for those not used to sharing with others, or who have been denied the opportunity to become accustomed to the practice of building bonds with others.


Ryo’s work with children in the currently closed Nara Juvenile Prison deserves our full attention, and this blog is the beginning of a series of engagements with it. The next follow-up will be with BBC Radio 4, in an upcoming program co-produced by Anishka Sharma of BBC and myself, putting Ryo Michiko into dialogue with poet and professor Seth Michelson in the U.S., whose poetry writing project with children in detention centers for undocumented immigrants shows the universality and urgency of the problems surrounding incarceration—how much room there is for improvement in our systems, and how important it is for all of us to take action to ameliorate the long-term damage prisons can inflict on the most vulnerable humans, exacerbating the issues they are supposedly designed to solve. (See Seth Michelson’s book Dreaming America at Settlement House below.)


––posted from the Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Nara, with audio engineer Darin Dahlinger to begin our interviews for the program…


References:

Reginal Dwayne Betts, “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” Bastards of the Reagan Era (Four Way Books, 2015).

Seth Michelson. Dreaming America: Voices of Youth in Maximum Security Detention (Settlement House, 2017).

Public Enemy. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Def Jam, 1988.

Ryo Michiko (寮美千子), Afuredeta-no-ha yasashisa datta (What Spilled Over was Kindness) (Nishi-nihon Shuppan, 2018).

Christopher Soto. “Poetry in the Age of Mass Incarceration: Challenging the Dichotomy of Innocence Versus Criminality.” Poetry Foundation Blog, September 25, 2017.