Despite its title, From the Japanese is not a book of translations of Japanese poems (although it does include versions of haiku by Basho and by the contemporary haiku master Natsuishi Ban’ya), but is rather a series of ‘translations’ of the experience of a long-term British resident of Tokyo; it also acknowledges the personal and cultural gifts received ‘from the Japanese’ over the last forty or more years.
The poems by Paul Rossiter collected here range in time from a version of a prose poem by Basho (done in London in 1969 before he had any idea he would visit Japan) to an elegy for the city of Ishinomaki, severely damaged in the tsunami of 2011. The book moves through the years between these two pieces by way of reports from Tokyo in the era of the Vietnam War, sharply visualised descriptions of dance and theatre performances, evocative poems of place, street-life vignettes, an appalled visit to Hiroshima, meditations on the pleasures and ambivalences of cross-cultural experience, and translations of two of his 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.
October 2013. Paperback. 72 pages. 8.5 x 5.5. ISBN 978-4-907359-00-3.
The poems are so tangible, clear and precise and I love the naturalness – like human speech – of the writing. And how real their concerns are. A lovely thing to have created such a book for others to walk into. (Lee Harwood)
This taking elements from other cultures and incorporating them into one’s work – is one paying them the compliment of ‘being influenced’, or is it consumerism, a form of appropriation? Rossiter manages to negotiate this territory in a thoughtful and humane way, charting the play of meaning between him and this other culture in writing of freshness and exactness and which, where appropriate, has an unforcedly enigmatic quality. (John Welch, Tears in the Fence)
There is a quiet grace in these poems, a measured tracing of pictures in words which I know I shall return to time and again. (Ian Brinton)
Click here to download a PDF excerpt from this book.
Click here to read a review of From the Japanese by Kris Kosaka in The Japan Times; click here to see a video of Paul Rossiter reading ‘Komachi’ and ‘A Letter from Ishinomaki’ from From the Japanese at the launch of the book in January 2014.