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Foreign languages professor wins prestigious translation award

by Jeanne Baron

Nov. 11, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Jeffrey M. Angles, WMU.
KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University faculty member has won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, the United States' most prestigious national prize for the translation of poetry.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Angles, associate professor of foreign languages, received the 2011 Landon Translation Award for his book "Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako."

This is the first time a translation from Japanese was recognized with the honor, which recognizes the best book translated from any language into English during the previous year and includes a $1,000 prize.

"Forest of Eyes," published in 2010 by the University of California Press, was selected by the celebrated poet and translator Charles Martin from among 32 finalists translated from 17 languages. Angles accepted his award during the Academy of American Poets' annual Poets Forum Oct. 20-22 in New York City.

"When I stood up to receive the award and give my reading, I could see that the audience was filled with poets I had read during my own college days and whom I admire greatly," Angles says.

"During the reception that followed the award ceremony, many poets I adore, such as Kay Ryan and Rita Dove--both former poet laureates of the United States--and other brilliant poets like C.D. Wright and Juan Felipe Hererra came up to me and told me how moved they were by the poems I had read."

Angles' book is the first full-length retrospective of the work of Tada Chimako (1930-2003), a major Japanese poet known for her use of mythological images and beautiful writing. In "Forest of Eyes," Angles has provided translations of more than 100 of her most famous poems, plus commentary and an introduction.

"Within these poems, one sees her concern for the metaphysical bonds that draw men and women together, as well as her concern for the future of humanity and the environment," he says.

"One of the poems I read at the award ceremony, 'After Half a Century,' is about the danger of human greed leading humankind to its own decline. When I finished reading the poem, a powerful sigh was heard across the room, followed by thunderous applause. This poem seemed an appropriate choice considering the Occupy Wall Street movement was taking place less than a mile away."

This is the second major prize Angles has won for "Forest of Eyes." Last year, the work earned him the 2009 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, presented by Columbia University's Donald Keene Center for Japanese Studies.

Angles is the director of WMU's Michitoshi Soga Japan Center and serves as co-director and advisor for WMU's Japanese language program. He primarily teaches Japanese literature, culture and translation studies.

Visit for more information about the Landon Translation Award. For more information about "Forest of Eyes," contact Jeffrey Angles at or (269) 873-2118.