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Prize-winning translator writes book

Oct. 28, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Dr. Jeffrey Angles, associate professor of foreign languages at Western Michigan University, has completed a new book that is the first full retrospective of the writings of one of Japan's most important modern poets.

Photo of Dr. Jeffrey Angles, WMU.The book, "Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako," was published in August by the University of California Press. It offers English-language readers their first opportunity to read a wide selection of Chimako's work.

Chimako (1930-2003), gained prominence in her native country for her sensual, frequently surreal poetry and fantastic imagery. Although her writing is an essential part of postwar Japanese poetry, her sensitive explorations of women's inner lives and use of themes and motifs from European, Near Eastern and Mediterranean history, mythology and literature make her a poet of the world.

Angles first met Chimako in 1998 while studying in Kobe, Japan, the same town where she spent most of her life. He was from Ohio and she had lived in Michigan in 1986 as a poet-in-residence at Oakland University, so the two immediately struck up a friendship talking about their shared experiences in the Midwest.

It was a decade ago that Angles first developed the idea of producing a big collection of Chimako's work. By that time, the poet was ill with the uterine cancer that eventually claimed her life.

"Tada was eager to see her work reach a wider American audience," Angles says. "It is my greatest regret that she did not live long enough to see the successful publication of this book."

"Forest of Eyes" includes the translations of more than 100 of Chimako's most famous poems, as well as commentary and an introduction. Angles says the book was a special challenge because Chimako was one of the rare poets in contemporary Japan to write in a wide variety of poetic styles, including free verse, prose poetry, and the traditional Japanese genres of tanka and haiku.

In April, his translation work for "Forest of Eyes" earned him the prestigious 2009 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. He also earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 2008 to support a project to translate the memoirs of Takahashi Mutsuo, another prominent Japanese poet.

Angles came to WMU in 2004 and is the director and advisor for the Japanese language program. He teaches Japanese literature and translation studies. In early 2011, he will be publishing another book entitled "Writing the Love of Boys" from University of Minnesota Press. This book focuses on the representation of same-sex desire in Japanese literature and expressions of ideology in the modernist literature of the 1910s through the 1930s.

Angles also is interested in literary translation and the ways that it has spurred literary development both in and outside Japan. He was on unpaid leave during the 2009-10 academic year working at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, Japan. In addition to serving as a visiting professor there, he was conducting a major research project on the cultural history of translation.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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