Posts Tagged ‘Misuzu Kaneko’

Are You an Echo? Showcased at Tokyo Event

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi Japan

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From left: Toshikado Hajiri, Michiko Tsuboi, and David Jacobson

On February 4, the illustrator, one of the translators, and the author of Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko spoke at an SCBWI Japan event in Tokyo.

Author David Jacobson (above right) began by telling how he was introduced to the works of Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930), by friends who were Kaneko fans. He began to do research and work out a plan and funding for a book of her poetry.

The first order of business was finding a translator. The “translator” turned out to be an aunt-niece team: Michiko Tsuboi, based in Japan, and Sally Ito, an ethnic Japanese born and raised in Canada. Both of the women had already translated Kaneko poems for “fun,” according to Tsuboi. Jacobson found in these two women the enthusiasm for Kaneko’s work he felt was needed to translate her poetry. He also wanted a feminine interpretation of the “motherly” and “girlish” language Kaneko used in her poems.

Jacobson, Tsuboi and Ito first met in person when they, with illustrator Toshikado Hajiri, took a trip to Senzaki (now Nagato City) where Kaneko spent her life. Thus motivated to get on with the project, their real work began.

Tsuboi told us about the endless emails and Skype sessions she, Jacobson and Ito shared. From my point of view as a translator, one of the most interesting points was how Tsuboi and Ito were so involved in Jacobson’s narrative of Kaneko’s life. Tsuboi mentioned how shocked she was when her Canadian niece criticized Jacobson’s work at times, but seeing that the author was paying attention, she joined in with her own unvarnished opinions. In the end, all three of the group were credited for narrative and translation. In the process, the story of Kaneko’s life became the prominent feature of the book. But Jacobson was determined to include many of her poems.

are-you-an-echo-cover-1024x855Tsuboi said her role in translating the poetry was to convey the nuances of Japanese culture to her niece, and Ito’s job was to make the poetic interpretation. The two thought the simple poems would be easy to translate, but they ended up in endless arguments about wording and interpretation.

As a reader thoroughly enchanted by Are You an Echo? I enjoyed the back story about the trip to Senzaki, the arguments and critiques and endless rewriting. As a translator and writer, I was in awe of the dedication to the work and the ability of all involved to set their egos aside, to create a book that so eloquently honors the tragedy and unique sensitivity of a little known poet.

The event on February 4 continued with a showcase of works by SCBWI Japan members, including Ginny Tapley Takemori, translator of The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui.

The Creative Collaboration Behind “Are You An Echo?” and SCBWI Japan Showcase on Feb. 4

are-you-an-echo-cover-1024x855The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

The Creative Collaboration Behind Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

with author David Jacobson, co-translator Michiko Tsuboi and illustrator Toshikado Hajiri

followed by

SCBWI Japan Showcase of New Works

with authors Michael Currinder, Suzanne Kamata, Trevor Kew, Leza Lowitz and Holly Thompson, author-illustrators Keiko Kasza and Izumi Tanaka, and translator Ginny Tapley Takemori

Date: Saturday, February 4, 2016

Time: Presentation 1-2:30 p.m. | Showcase 2:45-4:30 p.m.

Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Audiovisual Rooms A & B, 5-53-67 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (by the United Nations University; map)

RSVP: Reserve by sending an email to japan (at) scbwi.org

Full Details: See the SCBWI Japan event page

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misuzu-kanekoThe Creative Collaboration Behind Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (1-2:30 p.m.)

Join three of the creators of the stunning picture book published by Chin Music Press about the life and poetry of Misuzu Kaneko. David Jacobson will share about his role in crafting the biographical text and the forming of the book’s creative team. Michiko Tsuboi will address challenges faced in translating the seemingly simple poems of Misuzu Kaneko and her collaborative process with co-translator Sally Ito. Toshikado Hajiri will discuss his research, process, approach and technique in creating the many detailed illustrations for the book. There will be plenty of time for Q&A. Please feel free to bring your pre-purchased books for signing; please note that books will not be available for purchase at this event.

david-jacobson-732x1024David Jacobson is a longtime journalist and writer with a specialty in Japan. He has a BA in East Asian Studies from Yale University and was awarded a Mombusho scholarship to study at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University. While a journalist in print and broadcast media, his news articles and TV scripts appeared in the Associated PressThe Washington PostThe Seattle TimesThe Japan Times, and on NHK and CNN. Since joining Chin Music Press in 2008, David has edited or copyedited titles including Yokohama YankeeThe Sun Gods and Why Ghosts AppearAre You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is his first book. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

toshikado-hajiri-868x1024Toshikado Hajiri is a graphic artist and illustrator in Tokushima, Japan. After graduating from Ritsumeikan University in international relations and working at a trading company, in 2009 he decided to pursue his love for painting full-time. His work has appeared in school textbooks, advertisements, calendars, and in 12 children’s picture books. He was awarded 2nd prize in the 2006 International Illustration Competition sponsored by the Japan Illustrators’ Association, and his work was selected for inclusion in the illustrator’s gallery of the 2016 Asia Festival of Children’s Content. Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is his first book for michiko-tsuboi-680x1024international publication. For a gallery of his work, visit hajiritoshikado.com.

Michiko Tsuboi lives in Shiga, Japan. She majored in English literature in Doshisha Women’s College and has studied Canadian literature in Edmonton, Canada. She taught English at a high school and still teaches it at her home. Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is her first published book of translation.

 

 

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SCBWI Japan Showcase of New Works (2:45-4:30 p.m.)

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Join us for the SCBWI Japan Showcase 2017! SCBWI Japan member authors, illustrators and translators will present their recent or forthcoming children’s and YA books to the public in brief, lively presentations. Authors and illustrators will share excerpts, ideas that inspired the work, creative process, techniques, curriculum tie-ins, related activities, and more. Speed Q&A will follow the presentations.

Michael Currinder grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and ran cross-country and track at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Running Full Tilt is his first novel and is a fusion of his collective experiences as a talented high school runner and his close, yet complicated, relationship with his older autistic sibling. Mike has been an international educator for close to two decades, having lived in China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. He and his wife are now on year nine in Tokyo with their rescue dog, Leo.

Suzanne Kamata is the author of four novels including the award-winning Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, Screaming Divas, which was named to the ALA Rainbow List, and The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, which was a finalist for the Helen Sheehan YA Book Prize. Her short fiction and poetry for young readers  have appeared in YARN, Ladybug, Cricket, Cicada, and the anthology  Tomo. She serves as Publicity Assistant for SCBWI Japan, and teaches EFL and Creative Writing at Tokushima University. www.suzannekamata.com

Keiko Kasza was born on an island in the Inland Sea of Japan. She moved to the U.S. in 1973 and graduated with a B.A. in graphic arts from California State University at Northridge. Her first picture book was published in 1981 in Japan, and she continued to publish in her native language. The Wolf’s Chicken Stew, a 1987 ALA notable book and the winner of the 1989 Kentucky Bluegrass Award, was her first work published in the U.S. She has now published 21 picture books. Keiko Kasza currently lives in Tokyo, but she is planning to return to her home in the U.S. in a few years. www.keikokasza.com

Trevor Kew hails from the small mountain town of Rossland, BC, in Canada. He is the author of six children’s novels including Trading GoalsPlaying Favourites, and Run for Your Life, which was published in January 2017. He also contributed a story to the young adult anthology Tomo in 2012. Trevor teaches MYP and IBDP English at Yokohama International School. He is fast closing in on his first decade of living in Japan and definitely will write about Japan one day. http://trevorkew.com

Leza Lowitz is a poet, fiction writer and memoirist. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun and others. She has published over 20 books, including Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By, Jet Black and the Ninja Wind (Winner of the APALA Award), her memoir Here Comes the Sun, and Up From the Sea, her first verse novel for young adults. Other awards include the PEN Josephine Miles Award, a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, NEA and NEH grants, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the translation of Japanese Literature. She also runs Sun and Moon Yoga studio in Tokyo. www.lezalowitz.com

Ginny Tapley Takemori is a British translator based in rural Ibaraki, Japan, who has translated fiction by more than a dozen early modern and contemporary Japanese writers. She studied Japanese at the universities of SOAS (London) and Waseda (Tokyo) and earned her MA in Advanced Japanese Studies from The University of Sheffield. Two of her translations for young people are published by Pushkin Children’s Books: The Whale That Fell In Love With a Submarine, a short story collection by Akiyuki Nosaka, and The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui.

Izumi Tanaka was born in Kumamoto and grew up in Nagasaki. She loved to walk in the mountains during her childhood and still does now. After studying Japanese traditional gouache painting for several years, she began writing picture books. In 2005, she self-published her first picture book No no Hana no yōni (Like Wildflowers), a story set in Mongolia. In March 2017, her second book, Mame-chan no Bōken (Mame-chan’s Adventure) will be released as an e-book. http://izumi-picturebooks.jimdo.com

Holly Thompson is a longtime resident of Japan and author of the verse novels Falling into the Dragon’s Mouth, The Language Inside and Orchards; picture books The Wakame Gatherers and the forthcoming Twilight Chant; the novel Ash; and other works. A graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, she writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction for children, teens, and adults, and teaches creative writing in Japan, the U.S., and places in between. www.hatbooks.com

Misuzu Kaneko: The Sad Life of a Happy Poet

misuzu-kanekoBy Sally Ito, Winnipeg, Canada

When Misuzu Kaneko (1903–1930) started writing poetry, she lived in the town of Senzaki in Yamaguchi prefecture. It is a picturesque place on a finger of land extending into the Sea of Japan. Misuzu would have been in her late teens, just out of high school. An avid reader with ready exposure to books in the family bookstore, she took to writing poetry with natural, unaffected ease. And she was happy then. Or so I would like to think.

Like Yazaki Setsuo who re-discovered Misuzu’s poetry in the sixties, my encounter with Misuzu began first with the poetry which I, too, found startlingly fresh and arresting. The poetry led naturally to the question ‘Who is this Misuzu?’ and much like Yazaki I was drawn to finding out who this voice belonged to. What I discovered was both astonishing and yet somehow predictably tragic. Misuzu had a short life which she ended herself after a terrible arranged marriage that left her physically unable to look after her daughter. For only a brief period in her early twenties did she enjoy literary success before everything came crashing down around her.

As my aunt Michiko and I began translating Misuzu’s poetry together (which eventually resulted in the publication of the book, Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko) we did so with the weight of her sad life on our minds. Her life was incongruous with the poetry, written as it was, for children. Michiko wondered if Misuzu was happy. Some of her poems were dark; Misuzu was mindful of mortality, and she was unafraid of death. However, as we worked through the poems together, Michiko sensed that Misuzu was happy, and happiest when she was writing of the things she observed with the particular child-like vision she had of the world. And this happiness was deep and true and worth recording.

There are some people too gentle for this world, I thought, while working on the translations. Misuzu seemed like one of them. And yet what a treasure she left to the world in her poetry!  Feeling that I had to work out my complicated feelings about Misuzu’s short life and her luminous poems, I wrote this essay, “Forgotten Woman,” recently published in Electric Literature.

Photo Courtesy of Preservation Association of Misuzu Kaneko’s Work.

 

Publishers Weekly Features Poet Misuzu Kaneko

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko has been featured by Publishers WeeklyIf you are still trying to decide whether to reserve a copy of this picture book from Chin Music Press, due out in late September, be sure to read this in-depth introduction and have a look at a few of the beautiful illustrations. Poetry by Misuzu Kaneko, text and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi. Illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri.

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Picture Book to Share the Poetry, and Life Story, of Misuzu Kaneko

by David Jacobson, Seattle, Washington

“Who was Misuzu Kaneko?”

That’s what my colleagues and I at Chin Music Press asked when we set out to create our forthcoming picture book, Are You an Echo?  The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko (release date: Sept. 13, 2016). The question is probably the first one that comes to mind among those not familiar with this wonderful children’s poet, who, amazingly, is little known in the English-speaking world.

 

Wonder

I wonder why

the rain that falls from black clouds

shines like silver.

I wonder why

the silkworm that eats green mulberry leaves

is so white.

I wonder why

the moonflower that no one tends

blooms on its own.

I wonder why

everyone I ask

about these things

laughs and says, “That’s just how it is.”

By Misuzu Kaneko

Translation  © Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi, 2016

Kaneko has a remarkable story. Born in 1903, she grew up in rural Yamaguchi prefecture but became quite well educated for a woman of her time. She was an immediate success when she began submitting her poems for publication in the 1920s, and was one of only two women admitted to a prestigious national society of children’s poets.

At the height of her fame, however, Kaneko suffered tragedy in her private life. She was forced to marry a philanderer who not only infected her with gonorrhea but ultimately forbade her to write. She divorced him after four years, but he refused to give up custody of their one child, which was his right by Japanese law at the time. The night before he was due to take away the child, she committed suicide, exactly one month before her twenty-seventh birthday.

Sadly, Kaneko and her work were nearly forgotten for the next fifty years. But a fellow poet, Setsuo Yazaki, recovered her poetry manuscripts in the 1980s and finally published them in their entirety, most of the poems appearing for the first time in print. Since then, her poems have numbered among Japan’s most beloved children’s poems, and appeared in songs and children’s elementary school textbooks. Her life story has inspired multiple television dramas.

However, it was one poem’s broadcast in a public service announcement after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that solidified her reputation as one of Japan’s most beloved children’s writers.

So what is Misuzu Kaneko’s real “story”? Is it her poetry alone? Should it include her not-so-kid-friendly biography, if the goal is to make her work accessible to kids? And do we bring in the story of the loss and rediscovery of her poetry, and of the impact of her poetry after the tsunami?

While putting together the book, we debated over whether to abandon one of these threads or another. Some contested the claim that the broadcast of her poem after the tsunami had a real impact in Japan. I also heard from an experienced book reviewer that we might consider dropping the frame of the rediscovery of her work, as it might not interest kids. In the end, however, we decided that all these threads were important and that we could not tell her story without them.

And so the book has come together after much intense but fruitful collaboration. With the involvement of co-translators Sally Ito in Canada and Michiko Tsuboi in Japan, illustrator Toshikado Hajiri in Japan and me in the United States, Are You an Echo? is the product of a truly transcultural effort to introduce Misuzu Kaneko to English readers.

Are You An Echo?