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  • Writer's pictureTokyo Poetry Journal

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.

  • Writer's picturebarbar yates

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.

  • Writer's pictureTokyo Poetry Journal

Tokyo Poetry Journal Volume 11: Tokyo City / Slice is a love letter to Tokyo. It was a long time coming, delayed during times so uncertain, "uncertain times" has become a phrase we are all now allergic to.

"This volume was a long time coming. From Drunk Poets See God in Gari Gari, when said poets would wander into Shibuya walking after midnight. From poetry collaborations taking root in Yoyogi Park. From gatherings to write poems to the full moon, shrouded in clouds. From burning poems only to recreate them with fiery inspiration. Everything you find in this city is a trigger.

––from Editors' Letter, by Zoria Petkoska and Mat Chiappe

At the launch party on July 16, 2022, at The Hive Jinnan, the editors opened the event by reading from their letter. The poetry reading was then kicked off by editor-in-chief Jordan A. Y. Smith with a multilingual poem performed in his captivating style. He was followed by Joy Waller and Simon Scott. After the ToPoJo team broke the ice, one of the volume's youngest contributors, Kana Hozoji, took the stage to read "Bodies of Water", a bilingual poem in Japanese and English. That concluded part one of the reading.

In the intermission, ToPoJo Volume 11 cover artist, Simon Kalajdjiev, created digital glitch art live, projected on the screen accompanied by original music by Agustin Spinetti.

Some of the glitch art created during the performance by the artist:

The second block of readers started with Alvin Wong and his multimedia performance with sound, projections and an object installation.

Taylor Mignon and David Severn performed together, combining experimental poetry reading and music.

Marc Sebastian-Jones had an emotional performance reading several poems accompanied by sounds.

Andrew Gebert read his poem both in Japanese and English.

The evening was concluded with an electronic music performance by Agustin Spinetti. Spinetti creates captivating sets of music and AI-enhanced visuals that look like constellations of sounds. After a while he lets the audience participate and change the sounds at will from his phone.

Finally, Zoria and Mat read the invisible poem – invisible on the page but everyone could collect via a stamp at the event. (Read more about how to collect the invisible poem here).


Tokyo Poetry Journal Volume 11: Tokyo City / Slice contains poetry and translations by: Mat Chiappe, Alvin Wong, Zoria Petkoska, Taylor Mignon, Sarah Caulfield, Andrew, David Severn, Jordan A. Y. Smith, Simon Scott, Andrew Hanson, Carl Walsh, Alan Ojeda (translated by Griselda Perrota), Seira Duncan, Kana Hozoji, Kathleen Hellen, Misumi Mizuki (translated by Andrew Gebert), Nagae Yūki (translated by Jordan A. Y. Smith), Terayama Shūji (translated by Marc Sebastian-Jones), Matthew Zuckerman, Trish Shishikura, Christian Hernández, Barbara Summerhawk, Ibaragi Noriko (translated by Andrew Houwen and Peter Robinson).

Reviews of works by Tanikawa Shuntaro and Miho Nonaka.

Art by Simon Kalajdjiev (cover), Erica Ward, & Apolo Cacho.


All photos by Morgan Fisher.

See more photos of the launch below:

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