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On Hiromi Itō (to Itō Hiromi)

in Musings/Review by

Hiromi Itō
Itō Hiromi
I don’t know what to say about you
more than I got so confused
with your poetry-prose in verse
I think about Bolaño in an interview I saw
on Youtube
in La Belleza de Pensar (The Beauty of Thinking)
he says something like
the best poets in the 20th century have written in prose
I don’t think he was talking about you, Hiromi Itō,
but I do think he would have done so
if he had read f.ex. I am Anjuhimeko
beautiful poetry in prose,
so concise,
and rhythmic.

(can I call you Hiromi now?
we’re already in the 2nd stanza)
my concern grows,
I read your poetry in verse
something is wrong
it feels like poetry-prose in verse.
I lack rhythm, conciseness,
and I am only left with one question:
why is it written in this form?

I read on the translator’s introduction that your poetry is
“so different from that of other writers
is not just her rejection of classical metrical patterns
and terse style.”
You also make
“extensive use of registers of diction
that have been excluded from the poetic mainstream:
childish vocabulary,
the distinctive linguistic patterns that characterize women’s speech,
vulgar expressions,
and even profanity.”

Now: this is my source of confusion.
Rejection of classical metrical patterns
and terse style
have never been a problem for me,
I’m too used to that at this point in my reading career.

I check again a couple of poems I read some time ago
from Wild Grass on the Riverbank
I can see that freedom in the verses flowing around
I find the rhythm,
I find the conciseness,
I find the reason for it to be written in that form.

Have I lost the capacity to understand poetry?
Have I the capacity to understand you?

I go back to Killing Kanoko
I try to understand why this book is chasing me,
Hiromi, why are you disappointing me?
Why are you getting me to obsess over every single element I can find to help me recommend your book?
Why are you getting me to obsess over every single detail so I can explain why, even though it has been a concerning and not-all-times enjoyable experience to read, I want everyone to read you, Hiromi?

I grow concern.
I know I have to write something about your work,
I want it to be relevant,
I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,
I don’t want to waste words for anything.

On the Internet, people keep referring to you as
shi no miko (shamaness of poetry)
Kido Shuri via Wikipedia refers to your
“ability to channel voices onto the page”.

josei shi (women’s poetry)

I feel envy for you, Hiromi Itō,
your way of writing the female experience,
I think anyone should be.
Confronting, exploiting and destroying the daily life
in such an honest and direct way.

Now: that, I have never seen before.
Take for instance moving, post-partum or bad breast
to explore pregnancy and motherhood
in the most physical way
(what does that imply in the psyche?)
and yet without having experienced it
the impossibility is part of the possibility
you cannot escape certain cultural norms and constructions
built into certain identities
logical like a baby.

To be honest with you, Hiromi,
that is probably one of the main reasons why I would say I find your poetry fascinating.
Such clear proof that trying to read beyond understanding,
to acknowledge different experiences,
seek empathy in similar identities
is sometimes not enough,
that recognising cultural differences
might make my job easier and
most importantly
that they do affect and may make impossible a reading

because literature is not universal

after all

it is precisely because of that that I might be confused,
that I might not understand,
but having reached this point
I think I am fine with that.

Itō Hiromi, thank you for writing
(and keep writing and                   ).


Works cited:

Roberto Bolaño in La Belleza de Pensar:
Hiromi Itō – Killing Kanoko
Hiromi Itō – Wild Grass on the Riverbank
Wikipedia page of Hiromi Itō

Neus spends a considerable amount of her time thinking about Clarice Lispector in general and Sylvia Plath’s poems in particular. She’s a firm supporter of the Weil team in the which-Simone-is-better battle. She once read Infinite Jest and still talks about it today. She’s one half of the translation column Translation Tuesday, tends to overuse the word “nice” and apparently the pronoun “she” when she writes her bio.

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