SWET Talk Shop via Zoom: Translating Japanese Poetry into English

Janine Beichman, in conversation with Spencer Thurlow

Date: Sunday, July 11, 2021; Saturday, July 10 in North America

Poet and translator Spencer Thurlow reached around the globe from the U.S. East Coast to discuss translating Japanese poetry with Janine Beichman, based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki. Beichman’s most recent publication is Well-Versed: Exploring Modern Japanese Haiku (Meiku no yuen) by prominent haiku poet and critic Ozawa Minoru.

Well-Versed is a 350-page-plus publication that came out this spring as part of the Japan Library series and is a rare English-language look at haiku from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of our own twenty-first century. Beichman's excellent translations of both the poems and Ozawa’s commentary on each one give insight into the workings of haiku and the history and development of modern haiku in Japan.

After hearing some poems from Well-Versed, Thurlow discusses aspects of the work with Beichman as well as the translation process, publication, and the world of haiku.

Beichman is author of “Through a Glass Darkly: Is Translating Poetry Possible?,” an article published in the SWET Newsletter, No. 118 (December 2007), available to members in the SWET Archive (must be signed into the site) and in Readings on Japanese-to-English Translation.

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