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Kumamoto Literature Band and Hiromi Itō

by Yasuhiro Yotsumoto on June 17th, 2010

Hiromi Ito, one of the guest poets at this year’s festival, and I, editor of PIW-Japan, cannot be more different from each other in many ways, but there is one thing we have in common: both of us live outside Japan, Hiromi in California and me in Munich, and yet we have been writing poetry only in Japanese. A kind of self-imposed, non-political exile, carrying our mother tongue amid the foreign languages.

Both of us visit Japan frequently, almost commuting in Hiromi’s case, partly to engage in the literary activities, but also because of our ageing fathers. Hiromi’s father lives alone in Kumamoto, mine, also alone, in Fukuoka. Those happen to be the neighboring prefectures in Kyushu island, about 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo.

One day about two years ago, Hiromi told me, “Yotsumoto-san, I’m thinking of starting up a small group, right here in Kumamoto, to introduce contemporary literature from around the world. You know, everything new and interesting comes through Tokyo in Japan, and I want to change that. I want to connect Kumamoto directly to what is going on in the US, Europe, and Asia.” I said without any hesitation, “Great idea! I will join you.” On the spot, Hiromi, as Captain of the Kumamoto Literature Band, appointed me as the Chief of its Munich (one-man) Bureau.

For me, and probably for Hiromi as well, the real motive behind this is rather to combine the stressful task of family care and literature activities, which would otherwise be only accessible in Tokyo. By organising poetry readings and workshops by ourselves, we can have some fun while staying close to our fathers and saving time and money to visit Tokyo. Now, that is a great idea.

As it turned out, it was much more than “some fun”. The Kumamoto Literature Band organized more than a dozen lectures, workshops, and readings by well-known authors. Its membership is currently 50, involving academics, journalists, artists, students, and book lovers in and around Kumamoto. Its most activities include a Ren-shi (Linked-poetry) live session by poets Shuntaro Tanikawa, Wakako Kaku, Jerome Rosenberg, as well as Hiromi and me.

Behind all of these is Hiromi’s inexhaustible vitality and leadership. For any event, Hiromi personally finds sponsors, ensures maximum publicity, provides her own house for lodgings, entertains the visiting authors and holds house parties for the volunteer staff, all the while taking care of her father.

Now Hiromi will be bringing this Kumamoto spirit to Rotterdam and I will be joining the Captain on Friday as the Munich Bureau Chief. Let’s see what kind of ideas and materials we can find there for our future endeavours in Kumamoto . . .

Read more about The Kumamoto Literature Band on Hatena Diary.

Yasuhiro Yosumoto, editor of the Japan domain on PIW, will be interviewing Hiromi Itō on Friday 18 June in the foyer of the Rotterdam City Theatre at 19.15 hrs. Hiromi Itō will then be reading at 20.00 hrs, along with Michael Palmer and Ron Winkler, in the small auditorium. This event will be live-streamed.

Hiromi Ito (c) Michele Hutchison, Poetry International festival 2010

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