I was very pleased to find my contributors copy of Edinburgh Review #129, the Japan issue, in the post on Friday. And boy was this issue heavy! The magazine is an extended A5 size, perfect-bound with glossy cover, and this 'bumper issue' has a whopping 160 pages.
The cover art (as well as the photography section inside) is by Ken Kitano, who transposes hundreds of photos of the same image (for example, women dressed in kimoni) to create a composite image. Interesting to see the way the images overlap in 'Our Faces' (the name of the series).
I've got three poems in this issue: The Art of Folding, Jizo Bosatsu, and Hitodama. I'll be reading these poems at the launch of the Japan issue in a couple weeks. I suppose I'm a little nervous about reading The Art of Folding at the Japanese Consul General's house as it is one of my few critical poems about Japan and my experiences there. The poem touches on hikikomori, origami, 'smile training', amae, and... I suppose, my opinion that many Japanese people feel compelled (either by society or personally) to adhere to order and follow rules despite their own feelings, to keep quiet if they disagree, and that their futures are decided for them at an early age. Maybe this applies in other cultures as well (it does for me to some extent as an American I suppose). But hopefully I don't offend anyone by it!
The other two poems are based more around Japanese folklore and cultural icons. Hitodama is about the Japanese equivalent of the 'will o' the wisp' (which is know by loads of other names in other cultures); I love the way so many different cultures all over the world have the same mythological creatures. So creepy! Jizo Bosatsu is about the Guardian God of Children. Maybe you've seen pictures of statues in Japanese cemeteries, wearing a red bib? That's the Jizo Bosatsu! This poem sort of tells the story about his purpose, by way of a personal anecdote.
I also have my very first ever review published in this issue! I wrote about 'Strong in the Rain: Selected Poems', a collection by Kenji Miyazawa, translated by Roger Pulvers. Writing reviews is not really my forte, I discovered, as I was quite reticent to say anything negative, despite my initial feelings. Honestly, besides the title poem, I didn't really care for these poems personally (although I can understand why critics might like it at present, and I know that Miyazawa's title poem is one of the most famous/memorized poems in Japan), but I thought there were too many different contributing factors involved (namely, the poems being in translation) for me to write them off completely. It seemed well-apparent that the translator is a major, major scholar and fan of Miyazawa, and I think maybe that took a little bit away from the poems, for me. I wasn't given the proper space to appreciate the poems myself, to work them out and discover them on my own. Every poem came with notes, the 'answers', and left no room for me to make my own judgments. Sorry, rambling! You'll have to read the rest in the magazine.
Still! It was a cool opportunity for me to try out something new. I wonder what other people would think of these translations, especially with no knowledge of the original Japanese. I'd be keen to hear what you think if you can get yourself a copy!
That's that then! If you're interested, please support the Edinburgh Review by buying a copy of the magazine. This and past issues are available in the University's Online Store, for just £5.99. Annual subscriptions are also on offer. And of course, do keep an eye on the Edinburgh Review submission section - next issue is on Scotland, so if you have anything relevant, send it in!
ps. I recently heard from a bird that the editorialship of the magazine will be changing hands soon. I'll spill the beans on who the new editor will be once I'm allowed! =)