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Writing Away from Home

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Poetry Reading, Talk and Butoh

Date and Time: July 3rd, 19.00 till 21.00

Venue: Sophia University, Building 6, Room 404

Since the ages of Dante or Saigyo, poets have left their homelands and kept writing in their mother languages. We invite a few poets as contemporary showcases for this century old pedigree, including Chris Song and Yasuhiro Yotsumoto. The event will consist of poetry reading in Cantonese or Japanese with English translation and Butoh from Yubusha. This will be followed by a panel discussion in English, where the poets will share and discuss their respective experiences of leaving their homelands and writing in foreign environments. How is their poetry affected by their places of writing? Can writing poetry in the mother language be the substitute for Home?

Chris Song is a poet, translator, and editor from Hong Kong. He has published four collections of poetry and many volumes of poetry in translation. He received an “Extraordinary Mention” at Italy’s UNESCO-recognized Nosside World Poetry Prize 2013 and the Young Artist Award at the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards and in 2019 he won the Haizi Poetry Award. Chris is Executive Director of International Poetry Nights in Hong Kong and Editor-in-Chief of Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine (聲韻詩刊). He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.

Yasuhiro Yotsumoto was born in Osaka, Japan in 1959, and grew up in Hiroshima, Yasuhiro has published 15 books of poetry, 6 poetry translation, and 2 full length novels. His most recent publication is Dante meets Li Po, a translation anthology of classic poetry around the world into Japanese. He is currently running a weekly series of essays titled In Search of Poetry for Nippon Keizai Shinbun. Books of English translations include Family Room (tr. by the author), Poems of MINASHITA KIRYU, YOTSUMOTO YASUHIRO & SOH SAKON (tr. by Leith Morton), and Starboard of My Wife (tr. by Takako Lento), all published by Vagabond Press. After spending 34 years in the US and Germany, Yasuhiro came back to Japan in 2020, where he lectures in several universities and organizes the regular poetry event Poetry Talks Live in Hikari no Uma, a music venue in Tokyo.

Mary Wong Shuk Han 黃淑嫻 is a writer and comparative literature scholar in Hong Kong. She is the author of the books Feminine Writing: Cinema, Literature and Everyday Live (2014) and Hong Kong Cinema: Writer, literature and cinema (2013). Major edited volumes include Leung Ping Kwan and His 1960s (2023), Hong Kong 1960s (2020), and "Hong Kong Literature and Culture of 1950s" series (6 books, 2013). Her primary creative works include a poetry volume entitled Cave Whispers (2020), a short story collection Surviving Central (2013), and three volumes of essays,How to Survive Sad Days (2021), Against the Grain (2017), and From Kafka (2015). She was also the co-producer of two documentaries: 1918: Liu Yichang (2015) and Boundary Boundary: Leung Ping Kwan (2015). She is an Associate Professor at Lingnan University Hong Kong.

Tian Yuan 田原 was born in Henan Province, China in 1965. In the nineties, he moved to Japan, where he currently lives and works as a teacher, translator and poet. He translates from Japanese and writes in both Japanese and Chinese.

Kendall Heitzman (Ph.D., Associate Professor, The University of Iowa, Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature)

His book, Enduring Postwar: Yasuoka Shōtarō and Literary Memory in Japan (Vanderbilt University Press, 2019) looks at a prominent postwar Japanese writer through the lens of global memory studies. Yasuoka (1920–2013) was well aware of the power of collective memory to distort or erase variant experiences, and he was determined in his writing to valorize individual experience as a necessary point of resistance.He is currently researching two interconnected projects: a group of outward-looking poets who came to prominence in the 1960s, some of whom spent some time at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP), including Yoshimasu Gōzō and Shiraishi Kazuko and the history of Japanese writers in the IWP as well as the early days of the IWP in general. He has published translations of work by four recent IWP participants: Nakagami Nori, Shibasaki Tomoka, Fujino Kaori, and Takiguchi Yūshō.

Yubusha, a butoh dance unit. Butoh dancers, Keiko & Yuko Tokuyasu were born in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki in 1999. They studied modern ballet and classical ballet from childhood, butoh under butoh master Natsu Nakajima from 2019, butoh under butoh master Yumi Sagara and Ryugoro Kuze from 2020, and established the performance unit "Yubusha" centered on butoh in 2020.Involved in collaborative creations with various artists, including musicians, poets, and researchers, as well as educational activities centering on physical expression in Tohoku and other regions. In recent years, they have focused their research on the tradition of kagura in Iwate Prefecture, particularly from the unique perspective of "joshi-kagura" (women performing kagura, which was once forbidden to women), They will also explore the local performing arts of various regions, including the Tohoku region, and the body as a form of prayer.

Motonori Sato is Professor of English at Keio University, Japan. His publications on literature and cinema include The British New Wave (in Japanese; Minerva, 2012) and Graham Greene, a Cinematic Life (in Japanese; Keio University Press, 2018), which won the Association for the Studies of Culture and Representation Award. His co-edited book Drive My Car: Essays on a Cross-Media Vehicle was also published recently.

Panel Discussion Moderated by John Williams, DES, ICC, Sophia University.

John Williams is a writer and filmmaker whose most recent film is a Japanese language adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s poetic play, Under Milk Wood. Under Milk Wood is set in a small fishing village in Wales, and the film, Tabi, is set in a small fishing village in Japan. As well as making films, Williams dabbles in writing and translating poetry, chasing Tanukis and evaluating Japanese Sake.

Saigyo image: SaigyōHōshi (Japanese: 西行法師) was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian and early Kamakura period.This picture was drawn by Kikuchi Yosai(菊池容斎) who was a painter in Japan.


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