Friday, 26 March 2010

Killing Kanoko

Published by Action Books at the end of 2009, Killing Kanoko, translated by Jeffrey Angles is Ito Hiromi's first selection of poems to appear in English, mainly selected from collections that were originally published in Japan during the eighties and early nineties. Jeffrey Angles also writes an introduction which gives a portrait of Ito Hiromi's approach to her poetry, noting the importance of performing the poetry live, Ito often recites her poetry with accompanying drums, and discusses the subjects that her poetry explores, pointing out the shamanistic quality in her poetry, and Ito's interest in Native American poetry. Ito's poems on motherhood often describe the physicality involved in child rearing as well as the spiritual, her poems also explore eroticism, hara-kiri, gender,childbirth and also included in the collection is the short story/prose poem, 'I am Anjuhimeko' a fable-like piece that tells of the ordeals, travels and sufferings of a young girl, abused and exiled from her mother by her father(s), searching for Tennoji, this allegoric story also incorporates the yamanba from Japanese folklore.

The use of language is looked at in differing ways in the poems, not only as a means of expression, as in the poem 'Happy Destroying' Ito explores her experiences visiting and living in other countries and examines the perspectives and perceptions associated within different usages of the Japanese language, and that of being an outsider.'Trans-Population' is a poem concerned with dislocation and rootlessness, about moving away from your birth place and the things you take with you when you leave, the deterioration of things left behind,the passing of time, and a slight suffocation to the associations and language that are inherited with it. Observations of her daughter often provoke memories of Ito's own childhood, (and likewise the other way around), as in the poem Tennoji, as Jeffrey Angles points out in his notes that Tennoji temple is well known as being a place of physical and psychological salvation, Ito recalls a circle drawn in chalk as part of a childhood game thirty years ago, the chalk circle acts as a metaphorical link within the poem and it's feelings of security, and ponders what happened to the boy who drew it.

There are controversial poems here and also observational poems like Snow and So As Not To Distort - a poem about preparing shiratama and the desire to preserve a pure love, also the more fragmentary poem The White Cat that Shone Like Sunlight.Hiromi Ito has won numerous prizes for her poetry including the Takami Jun Prize and recently the Hagiwara Sakutaro Prize.

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