LONDON LAUNCH OF ISOBAR BOOKS, 3rd July 2015
Isobar will be launching the first four books for 2015 in London on Friday, 3rd July. Peter Robinson will read from his new volume of prose poems and memoirs, The Draft Will; C.E.J. Simons will read from his first full collection, One More Civil Gesture; Paul Rossiter will introduce the press and read from Eric Selland‘s second Isobar book, Beethoven’s Dream, and Lesley Hardy‘s first publication, Dreaming of Zeus.
PLACE: Upstairs at the Rugby Tavern, Gt James St, WC1N 3ES (0207 7405 1384).
TIME: Friday 3 July 2015, 7:00–10:00 p.m., free.
Isobar Press publishes poetry in English by Japanese and non-Japanese authors who live (or have lived) in Japan, or who write on Japan-related themes. In future, the press aims also to publish translations of modern and contemporary poetry from the Japanese.
In London, Isobar books are available from the London Review Bookshop, 13 Bury Place, London WC1A 2JL; tel: +44 (0)20 7267 9030.
In Tokyo, Isobar books are available from 紀伊國屋書店 (新宿南店) 6F / Kinokuniya Books (on the 6th floor of the Shinjuku South store); Good Day Books (Tokai Bldg. 3F, 2-3-2 Nishi Gotanda); and Infinity Books (1-2-4 Azumabashi, near Asakusa).
They are also available from Amazon.co.jp, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.
JUST PUBLISHED: Click on title or author to read more.
Much of it composed during Peter Robinson’s eighteen years living in Japan, The Draft Will brings together a selection of his experiments with the prose poem and an extended sequence exploring a mystery in the poet’s family background. To these has been added a gathering of memoirs written for various occasions over thirty years. Among these is ‘Lost and Found’, an account of the events surrounding the discovery he was suffering from a brain tumour, and how after its removal he was able to return to Sendai, working there for a further twelve years. Robinson’s unusual attention to the timbre and cadence of English has singled him out as among the distinctive poets of his time; The Draft Will is an essential element in this evolving body of work. ‘A major English poet’ (Poetry Review).
Beethoven’s Dream completes the cycle of hybrid works by Eric Selland which includes The Condition of Music and Arc Tangent. As in these other works, Selland extracts fragments from a working notebook, juxtaposing appropriated text with his own extemporaneous writing to produce these meditations on daily life, memory, desire and loss. The book contains two long works, ‘Sketches’ and ‘Beethoven’s Dream’, where Selland’s interests in music, philosophy, and painting – and the love of Beethoven that he shared with his father – merge with the workaday world of Silicon Valley’s high-tech factories; the tension between dissatisfaction with that world and the desire to inhabit more completely life as it actually has become is a major concern. Both works explore the intersecting points of past and present, dream and reality, internal and external – where identity emerges ‘as a cluster of unstable boundaries’ – in language whose resonances and silences are equally haunted by the internal transformations of which they are the traces.
In Dreaming of Zeus the Greek hunter goddess Artemis eliminates a photographer from her realm; Hera, the goddess of women and motherhood, enjoys a moment of repose in a tea salon; Persephone acclimates herself to Hades; the medieval Majorcan hedonist-turned-missionary Ramon Lull reflects on his career; the composer Erik Satie grieves the loss of his great love; a princess in Japanese legend goes mad when her lover flees; and a slumberer is visited by Zeus in her dreams. In an unusual and distinctive voice, Lesley Hardy’s elegantly imagined poems conjure up figures in myth and history, capture evocative moments in dream and contemporary life, and illuminate where these worlds overlap and haunt each other. “Lesley Hardy has an uncanny ability to infuse with life characters from other worlds and other eras. Across an extraordinary range of subjects, images and ideas are conveyed with graceful precision in lines now glimmering with wit, now shaded by an inescapable strangeness. Perhaps most affecting of all that these poems have to offer are moments of simplicity that go right to the heart of things, and leave us grateful to have encountered a new poet of such rare gifts.” (Dianne Highbridge)
The poems in One More Civil Gesture, the first full collection by C. E. J. Simons, frequently take their subjects from singularities of nature and art – things that are wonderful not because they are unusual or rare, but because they deserve wonder, no matter how familiar: animal life; the seasons; family; myth; well-known Shakespeare plays. Simons wrote much of the book in Japan, where he has lived since 2006, and in the interstices of frequent travel in Asia, particularly to Burma, China, and Mongolia; the cultures and landscapes of these places, as well as of England and his native Canada, inform the work. “With something of Ted Hughes’s unflinching power, allied to a troubled compassion, Chris Simons draws on a richly diverse range of subjects in poems that deal with the devastations and losses of the present, the past, and prehistory. Rhyme and violence are yoked together as ‘Time picks history clean as a carcass’, a cameraman earns a tough, affecting elegy, ‘the anthropomorphic lie’ confronts ‘the truth in the hawk’s eye’, and the civil gesture of poetry encounters much that threatens its attempted composure. This is an impressive first volume.” (Michael O’Neill)
PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED: (click on the titles for more information and links to Amazon):
David Silverstein was a well-liked and well-respected figure on the Anglophone poetry scene in Tokyo from the late 1980s until his premature and entirely unexpected death in the spring of 1992. His special forte was the prose poem, which he used in a virtuosic way to provide the reader with – among other things – portraits of strangers on trains, glimpses into the private lives of bricks, mossy walls, bread crumbs and other inanimate objects, reflections on the relations between seer and seen, observations arising from walks in the streets of Tokyo, and explorations of fantasy and its limits. His writing is fast-moving, improvisatory, psychologically astute, often very funny, sometimes desolating in its awareness of the costs of solitude, but also capable of articulating moments of uncomplicated happiness. Whispers, Sympathies, & Apparitions, edited and with an afterword by Paul Rossiter, reprints a substantial selection of poems from Silverstein’s three books.
The first edition of The Insomniac’s Weather Report by Jessica Goodfellow, originally published in 2011 as the winner of the Three Candles Press First Book Award, was only briefly available; this new Isobar edition brings this very striking collection back into print. Shifting between formal and prose poems, the myriad voices in this book include an insomniac struggling to delineate the edge between consciousness and sleep, and a couple trapped in a poem cycle that is itself an interlocking meditation on the oblique lines between self and other that constitute marriage.
To say that The Insomniac’s Weather Report is exquisitely thrilling poetry doesn’t begin to do it justice. Wicked and funny as an encyclopaedia of unanswerable koans, elegant as a fifteenth-century flowered silk kimono . . . I found it irresistible, as will you, dear reader. – Alicia Ostriker
A Fire in the Head. The second book from Isobar by Andrew Fitzsimons contains two complementary works, both of which emerged out of the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. The title poem-sequence takes the 5-7-5 form of the haiku to create an accumulating narrative of life adjusting to altered circumstance. The essay ‘ What are Poets For?. . .’ explores the efficacy of art when confronted with calamity, and from within the experience of the catastrophic events offers a response to the question: In a time of need, what use is a poem?
Included with the English text is a translation of the title sequence into Japanese by Nobuaki Tochigi, a translation of ‘What Are Poets For?…’ by Mitsuko Ohno, and drawings by the Tokyo-based artist and designer Sergio Maria Calatroni.
A Great Valley Under the Stars: The first book of poetry by Royall Tyler, the award-winning translator of The Tale of Genji and The Tale of the Heike. Royall Tyler writes: ‘Distilled from notes and pages written decades ago in the New Mexico desert and during Midwestern winters, this suite moves from listening for the voice of the worthless – trash, stones, men in the least of places – to a vision of a great valley under the stars, the spell of love, and the music of the sky. It is all one.’
This is a delightful and lovely book – at once spare and lyrical, whimsical and profound. I have been grateful for Royall Tyler’s splendid translations for years, but I am every bit as grateful now to have read him writing entirely in his own voice. (David Bentley Hart)
What the Sky Arranges: Poems made from the Tsurezuregusa of Kenkō by Andrew Fitzsimons: The Tsurezuregusa is a collection of wise, witty, compassionate and, occasionally, cranky ruminations on the business of living by the monk, Kenkō (c1283-c1350). The poems in What the Sky Arranges speak in a voice and tell of things derived from Kenkō: reading, travel, good and bad taste, exile, art, art bores, technophobia, scandal, sex, gardening, game theory, graveyards, friendship, death, the moon . . .
A truly wonderful sequence of poems, combining a lightness of touch with great depth and resonance, and one to be enjoyed in the words of the work itself ‘under the lamp alone / a book spread out before you: bliss’. Absolute bliss, indeed. (David Peace)
Arc Tangent by Eric Selland: Two long sequences, ‘Arc Tangent’ and ‘Table of Primaries’, both of which are hybrid works made up of prose, poetry and fragments collaged from a working notebook, occasionally using appropriated text. Selland’s work has deep roots in the American Modernist tradition, while at the same time being profoundly influenced by his lifelong experience with the language and poetry of Japan.
Eric Selland’s lyric work possesses a poise and nuance reminiscent of the French symbolist vision of Japonisme, wherein the slightest brushstroke or flute-breath causes the entire universe to veer. This is writing that moves along the verge of the unsayable, enacting a deep study of the mystery of everyday life. (Andrew Joron)
The Rhododendron Forest by Denis Doyle: When Denis Doyle arrived in Japan in 1987, he brought with him the manuscript of The Rhododendron Forest, consisting mostly of poems written in the previous few years in and about Cornwall – with excursions to Spain, an imagined St Petersburg, the scriptorium of a medieval monastery, and into memories of the romantic bafflements of a Catholic adolescence. The book was published in Tokyo by Printed Matter Press in 1991, but has long been out of print. Added to this new, revised edition of The Rhododendron Forest is Doyle’s translation – first published by North Light Press in England in 1982 – of the first (prose) and third (poetic) versions of the narrative La Tierra de Alvargonzalez, a key work by Antonio Machado (1875–1939); Doyle’s translation faithfully captures the exalted simplicity and tragic ballad-tale quality of Machado’s poem, originally written in 1912 during a period of intense personal crisis.
From the Japanese by Paul Rossiter: A collection of poems about Japan written between 1969 and 2013, ranging from reports from Tokyo at the time of the Vietnam War to an elegy for the city of Ishinomaki, severely damaged in the tsunami of 2011, by way of poems of place, incident and performance, and translations of Basho and of contemporary haiku master Natsuishi Ban’ya. The book also includes translations of two of Paul Rossiter’s poems into Japanese by the well-known Japanese-language poets Arthur Binard and Kisaka Ryo, and of five of his haiku by Natsuishi Ban’ya.