Two Lines 29: The Japanese Vanguard
My roots were somewhere with you,
and only the strange horses loved my whinny, those who belong to no land.
—Nahid Arjouni, tr. Shohreh Laici
I could probably read only authors from Vermont from now until I die and never run out of good books. So, I’m always wary of publishing a group of writers from one country and mistakenly giving the impression that that sliver should be somehow representative of the whole. As if a group of five or nine or a hundred writers could give even an inkling of what a country’s literary culture, let alone its history, might be, and as if understanding a literature is even possible.
Americans are familiar with the poetry of Bashō or Issa. Some of you likely know Hiromi Itō or Chika Sagawa or Kiwao Nomura, but there’s so much we just don’t have access to. In this issue we have a special section devoted to contemporary Japanese poets who haven’t had a book in English before. These are poets writing anything, from lyrics to eco-poetic epics. They are all very unique, and many writers exist in the spaces between and outside of their interests—I hope in the next issue and the next we can bring some of those writers to English, too. Never arriving at a whole, but always expanding.
Also in this issue we continue our exploration of world literature, including arresting writing from Iran, Bolivia, Hungary, and elsewhere. And, as is our usual approach, we’re not trying to define what international literature is, but to explore possibilities, see some new viewpoints, perhaps see that there is literature different from anything we’ve read before, and, to say as Jaime Sáenz, translated by Ted Dodson, says: “In the end, I worship clear voices…”