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  • Writer's pictureTokyo Poetry Journal

Featuring contemporary Japanese poets in English translation, ToPoJo Volume 12 is another big labor of love containing over 200 pages of poetry one should read to know the state of Japan's poetry scene right now.

This volume sees debuts from Aoyagi Natsumi, Endo Hitsuji, Martha Nakamura, Kawaguchi Harumi, Matsuda Tomoharu, Minesawa Noriko, Koori Hironobu, Sonic Nurse, and more, plus favorites Takahashi Mutsuo, Fuzuki Yumi, Michiyama Rain, Arai Takako, Enomoto Saclaco, and Nagae Yūki; interview with Stephen Snyder, essay by Yotsumoto Yasuhiro, book reviews, art by Shiraishi Setsuhi.

The volume's launch took place on May 12 at La Cabina with a word by the volume's editor in chief Jordan A.Y. Smith and associate editor Zoria Petkoska K. There were bilingual readings by Sonic Nurse, Endo Hitsuji, fukudapero, Aoyagi Natsumi, Arai Takako, Fuzuki Yumi, Fujita Yukihiro, Yotsumoto Yasuhiro, Koori Hironobu and current Japan Kotoba Slam champion Michiyama Rain. Reading the translations were members of the ToPoJo team: Jordan, Jeffrey Johnson, Taylor Mignon, Joy Waller and Simon Scott as well as translator Kendall Heitzman.

The lo-fi electronica set from SANTA DHARMA transported us to some other levels, adding another layer of artistry to the whole evening.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support poetry. The volume is also available for purchase online.

Big thanks to Luis Patron for all the photos.

Committed to sharing and uplifting the myriads of poetic voices across different languages, nationalities, genders and generations, the Tokyo Poetry Journal shined an additional spotlight on women in poetry on March 25 in honor of International Women's Day and Women's Month.

The event took place at the cozy Ryozan Park Lounge in Sugamo. Tokyo Poetry Journal editor emeritus Barbara Summerhawk kicked off the night reading poetry by the Iranian poet Nassarine as well as poems by Yosano Akiko recited from memory. We also heard some of her own fantastic poetry, before introducing a new friend of ToPoJo's, Silje Ree.

Silje took us through the multilingual intricacies of speaking Norwegian and English through her poetry, as well as sharing her visual poetry with the audience later throughout the evening.

The first set was closed by Rachel Ferguson who encapsulated three themes in her reading: women, poetry and home(sickness). She introduced us to the selkie – a shapeshifting creature from Scottish mythology – in one of her poignant poems.

Extraordinary poet and head of Japan Kotoba Slam Poetry, Miki Yuuri opened the second set and ToPoJo's editor Jordan A.Y. Smith read his translations of Miki Yuuri's poems. They gave us a moving heartfelt bilingual performance, followed by a tri-lingual poetry reading where ToPoJo editor Mat Chiappe joined to read in Spanish. He read a poem by Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik followed by a translation in English and in Japanese, read by Jordan and Miki respectively.

Bottom right corner photo courtesy of al mccuskerthompson

The second set was rounded by ToPoJo editor Zoria Petkoska K. who read poems by Macedonian poet Svetlana Hristova Jocikj. She then read poetry dedicated to other poets who have inspired her to keep writing. The final poem was dedicated to the Tokyo poetry scene and taken from her futuristic experimental cyber(punk) Instagram poetry series under the #commutepoems hashtag.

The final set for the evening was opened by Quenby Aoki, a member of the Tokyo poetry scene that we know and love. Her performance was a blend of free verse and haiku touching upon themes of women, motherhood, life, disasters and more. Quenby was followed by Vera Chirino who chose to read a poem by famous Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz. She read the original in Spanish, after telling the sad story of the poet's secluded life.

Finally, to close the evening, ToPoJo's PR representative Joan Anderson read “Liberation” – a touching poem by Ghanaian poet Abena Busia. That was followed by her own poem titled "VCV Voices Can Disarm the World" – a celebration of womanhood written originally for an event by the VCV collective.

Here are more photos from the wonderful audience who came out despite heavy rain and the great atmosphere they helped create.

ToPoJo collaborated with More Than Music (MTM) for a musical-poetry event at the cozy Whiz Cafe in Kanda during a nippy, winter January night.

ToPoJo founders Jeffrey Johnson, Taylor Mignon, and Barb Summerhawk led off the 3-tiered program in the upstairs narrow, wooden floored room with a great ambience and loaded with supportive, enthusiastic poetry lovers. Jeffrey, backed by musician son Leo, read from his work in an even-toned voice. Half the fun was enjoying the father and son riffing together. Taylor followed that warmly-applauded duo by reading a poem of Tsuji Setsuko that Taylor had translated, and two of his originals, also backed by a musician and friend of the show Adam Gyenes. Rapping up the TPJers, Barbara performed a couple of her gender-bender, starburst poems and the crew took five. During the break, there was a lot tsukiai, smiles, greetings and introductions.

The next tier featured a Japanese poet reading by Yoshi Hogyaku, with flute commentary by flutist Miya, and summed up in improvisation by British poet Stephen Fowler, with sometimes hilarious results. Australian and Tokyo resident Corey Wakeling then read from his diaries, taking us deep with a hint of whimsy. Selje Ree, a Norwegian poet shared her verse and later shared some of her Vizpo with us during another break. Finally, an open mic brought up several readers including Al McCuster Thompson, Rachel Ferguson and Wannes Wannes Chauvaux.

The evening then proceeded to the peerless music of guitarist Tsuboi Tama and Brit Kevin Gray to round out the evening of fun and inspiration. We went home a little more enlightened, a little warmer and a little more in love with the spoken word.


All photos by Monkee Music Media, provided by More Than Music.

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