Tokyo Poetry Journal
ToPoJo Welcomes Two New Associate Editors
Updated: Nov 3, 2021
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 the commissioning 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.
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/