2016 Lucien Stryk Shortlist: These Things Here and Now, trans. by Jeffrey Angles

These Things Here and Now: Poetic Responses to the March 11, 2011 Disastersthese_things_here_and_now_cover
By various poets
Translated from the Japanese by Jeffrey Angles
(Josai University Educational Corporation University Press)

These poems, written in the days and months after the March 2011 natural and nuclear disaster in Japan, are important to Japan and the world in several ways, as Jeffrey Angles adeptly reminds us in his introduction.  The collection demonstrates the necessity and the possibility of poetry in a time of trauma, as well as Angles’s skill as both translator and curator.  These poets work in different media and different registers, moving from straightforward concerns about safety and survival to lofty invocations, sometimes in the same poem, or the same tweet.  If they presume to speak for others, it is always with a sense of contemplation and even hesitation about what it means to attempt to represent things beyond themselves, as in Takahashi Mutsuo’s “These Things Here and Now”:

I write these things here and now
It does not matter that I, the writer, am anyone in particular
I should be a person without name and without individuality
A person with eyes but without a face, with hands tied directly to sight
Hands that must remember how to write in the darkness
Eyes that must see neither hope nor disappointment, only truth

We are fortunate to have this collection in English while the disaster still feels very much like the here and now.

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