Category Archives: Poetry

Ensō Watt‎ Perform Clonologic Horizone® at Urbanguild Tomorrow!

Our favorite experimental multi-media performance group will be blowing minds again at Kyoto’s Urbanguild tomorrow night. Don’t miss this if you are free and in town.

clonologic

Date: 5 November 2016
Time: 19:30–1:00
Venue: UrBANGUILD Kyoto
http://www.urbanguild.net/
map : https://goo.gl/maps/wHTfPYvzDEN2
door 2800 yen
adv 2000 yen
student 1500 yen
+1 drink

ensō watt (http://ensowatt.org/)
is
{electronics, spatialization}
Samuel André ( aka ieva ) http://ieva.free.fr/e

{scenario, poetry }
Chris Mosdell http://chrismosdell.com/

{composer, conductor, percussionist}
Yannick Paget http://www.yannickpaget.com/

{piano }
江南泰佐 Taisuke Enami http://otodamaradio.blog16.fc2.com/

{accordeon synth}
ryotaro http://www.ryotaro.info/

{contrabass}
岡田康孝 Okada Yasutaka  

{trumpet}
Christopher Fryman

{live video mapping}
Andy Couzens & Masato Tokumaru

{translation}
吉村哲幸
noriyuki yoshimura

Matsuo Basho Colloquium by Writers in Kyoto on October 28th 2016

Here’s news of an upcoming event hosted by Writers in Kyoto (WiK) this week:

BASHO COLLOQUIUMbasho

OCT. 28 (FRI) 6.00-8.15 pm

RYUKOKU UNIVERSITY, OMIYA CAMPUS

Shofukan B101  (Shofukan is located at the intersection of Shichijo Omiya. From Horikawa Shichijo walk west on the south side until you reach Omiya. Shofukan is on the SW corner.)

Contact on the day: 080 4028 3158 (Dougill) or 090 9878 9408 (Carty)

Guest speakers:

Stephen Gill – haiku poet, lecturer

Robert Wittkamp – Kansai University

Jeff Robbins- Compiler of Basho4Now

Co-chair: John Dougill and Paul Carty, English Dept, Ryukoku University

*****************************

Flow of events:

5.30 – Doors open for reception

6.00 – Welcome and Stephen Gill presentation: Basho: Self-portrait

6.20 – Robert Wittkamp presentation:

The failed institutionalization of fictionality

―Reading Oku no Hosomichi as a literary work―

7.00 – Questions for either presenter

7.10 – Break for snacks etc.

7.20 – Jeff Robbins presentation:
Humanity in Basho: Bonding the Generations

8.00 – Questions

8.10 – Conclusion

8.15 – Retire to the nearby “Public House” for drinks, food and discussion

********************

Stephen Henry Gill – university lecturer, haiku poet, translator , BBC radio scriptwriter

Basho: Self-portrait

When Basho portrayed himself, either in his painting or his poetry, he did so as the very epitome of Travel (tabi) itself – garbed in rain-hat and robe, with steadying staff and disposable straw sandals. Through haikai images of his own person, he managed to instill in the mind of his readers the scale of walking and the impact of the elements. In his travel sketches, or kikōbun, he saw himself as a dot on the land, visiting places of literary import, utamakura, subjecting himself to all that nature might offer him, for better or for worse. As evidence of this, we not only have a plethora of marvelous hokku by the poet, but also a small number of paintings of him travelling. He thought of himself as maintaining a tradition of literary travel and often used his own travel accoutrements to represent himself in the images he created.

My presentation will focus as much as possible on Basho in his own words and through his own eyes. Basho evidently thought of himself as ‘a wandering crow’ (tabi-garasu) and painted himself in tattered black robes both on journeys and at rest.

旅烏(たびがらす)古巣(ふるす)は梅(むめ)になりにけり

A wandering crow –

He finds a plum has flowered

At his old nest.

*************************

Prof. Dr. phil. Robert F. Wittkamp – Department of Humanities at Kansai University

The failed institutionalization of fictionality

―Reading Oku no Hosomichi as a literary work―

Contemporary theories consider fictionality as a “fiction contract” concluded between author and reader. Consequently fictionality is not something contained within the text but tied to the pragmatic aspects of language. It is a special use of speech, and this use on the other hand is institutionalized. However, while fictionality itself is not a particular content, the text contains signs labelling it as fictional speech. For example no rational reader would take a modern novel as a factual report on real or historical events due to the fact that one wouldn’t expect it in the first place. We read the novel based on the contract (knowledge) of fictionality. The label “a novel” on the book itself, its place in the designated corner of a book shop, a review in a magazine and so on are examples for institutionalized markers of fictionality, but of course such markers can be found within the text as well. As an author Bashō provided his literary travelogue in haibun stile (haibun kikō) with many such markers, but his attempt―may it be intentional or not―eventually failed. Despite the remarks by several scholars that Bashō the author and the first person narrator are not identical, to say nothing of the usual recipient even most experts, usually are reading the text as a factual travel diary depicting a real journey undertaken by the author in the year 1689. Being asked who is the “I” in the text, most would answer “Bashō”, but actually the text itself reveals almost nothing about the narrator’s identity. In passages which seem to be a little awkward, i.e. which cannot be explained as “laughing in high dimensions” (kōji no warai), or do not fit to the image of Bashō as a “lonely wanderer in the autumn wind” (shūfū kokaku), commentaries fall silent, and smaller “mistakes” usually are explained as a “false memory” (kioku chigai).

In my talk I am going to read the Oku no Hosomichi as fictional speech and examine the text for corresponding markers of fictionality―from the unusual masugata book format over the unreliable narrator to details like “speaking as if”.

*****************

Jeff Robbins: Compiler of Basho4Now

Humanity in Basho: Bonding the Generations

The Basho haiku, travel journals, and few haibun available in English are a mere one-third of his poetry and prose available in Japanese. The two-thirds never or rarely translated — 1700 stanzas of linked verse, several tanka, 118 haibun, and 229 letters – include Basho’s most humane and life-affirming works. Each attendee will receive a pamphlet Bonding the Generations containing Basho linked verses, haiku, tanka, and passages from his letters, about the bonds between parents or grandparents and children. The presenter will explore the “compassionate intuition” in a few of Basho’s linked verses and letters, then attendees can share their insights. You will take away an awareness of the vast ocean of Basho works beyond his haiku and travel journals; an ability to further explore these profound resources for human self-understanding.

Pictures from Enso Watt & Instant Eternity!

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Enso Watt performed Sanka’s 5th Season Ritual at Urbanguild on Sunday night and as always it was a fantastic show. If you are not familiar with what they do, it is a choreographed multi-media extravaganza, of experimental music, pre-recorded soundscapes, live video, art, poetry, heaps of talent, color, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. All of it conducted by classical composer/conductor Yannick Paget, and inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell. Sometimes when they are all playing and the lyrics are bubbling from Chris Mosdell’s mouth, I feel like they are just happily playing, that I don’t need to take it so seriously, just go along for the ride. But by the time we got to the 3rd act on Sunday night, I was thoroughly sucked in by the poet’s words, swept up by the music, and Yannick’s pounding drums… enthralled, enthused, moved and inspired.

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“We are elementary,” said the poet, “awakening from a phantasmagorical sleep… We have lived everywhere…”

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Words and music, light and sound were bringing us back to our first beginnings, and to our essential unity: “We have learnt to dissolve in all directions, to transfer identities.”

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“We are an ancient race with an essential innocence, with virginity in our veins–”

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Imagine that; a creed underlying culture that celebrated our essential innocence, rather than the dead weight of original sin.

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I was intoxicated by the energy of this performance. My mind was taking the poet’s lyrics and spinning new mythologies, new litanies of healing, multiplying through “dimensions, strata, levels, layers…”  I imagined the Sanka Rites poured into the common consciousness, overwhelming  terror and trauma, washing away tired philosophies of division and denial! How splendid to be “charged with renegade magic”, to celebrate and build rather than fight and destroy!

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Thoughts like these went through my mind at Sanka’s 5th Ritual.

Many thanks to all the participants in Sunday night’s show. There really is nothing else like the raw mix of talent and adventurous spirit that makes up the Enso Watt collective.

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But will they play again, I wonder? After Eternity, what next?

ensō watt are
{soundscape, spatialization}
Samuel André (aka ieva)

{composer, conductor, percussionist}
Yannick Paget

{poetry}
Chris Mosdell

{piano }
江南泰佐 Taisuke Enami

{accordeon synth}
ryotaro

{contrabass}
岡田康孝 Okada Yasutaka

{guest : trumpet}
Christopher Fryman

{live video mapping}
Andy Couzens & Masato Tokumaru

{drawing}
Hirisha Metha

{translation}
吉村哲幸
noriyuki yoshimura

See also: Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual

Ensō Watt Return to UrbanGuild for Sanka’s Fifth Ritual!

Oh boy! They are back! This is going to be great!

enso

From Marguerite Paget:

Dear Friends
Ensō Watt is coming back for the Sanka’s Fifth season Ritual !
After completing the “seasonal cycle” (the rites of summer, autumn, winter and spring), honoring the 100th anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary Rite of Spring, the musical/visual ensemble Ensō Watt will add a fifth season: INSTANT ETERNITY – a journey through the Great Void on “reincarnation runs,” in their mind-feathers and abyss oil, in search of the Lost City of Abstract Hours.
Come along for the ride!

Ensō Watt is an artist collective born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound-design.
http://www.ensowatt.org

2016 January 24th (Sunday)
Venue: UrBANGUILD Kyoto

http://www.urbanguild.net/
map : https://goo.gl/maps/wHTfPYvzDEN2

On the door: 2800 yen / In advance: 2100 yen
Students: 1600 yen
+1 drink

ensō watt is
{soundscape, spatialization}
Samuel André (aka ieva)

{composer, conductor, percussionist}
Yannick Paget

{poetry}
Chris Mosdell

{piano }
江南泰佐 Taisuke Enami

{accordeon synth}
ryotaro

{contrabass}
岡田康孝 Okada Yasutaka  

{guest : trumpet}
Christopher Fryman

{live video mapping}
Andy Couzens & Masato Tokumaru

{drawing}
Hirisha Metha

{translation}
吉村哲幸
noriyuki yoshimura

See also: Sanka’s Winter Ritual

Sanka’s Spring Ritual: A Mixed Media Performance by Ensō Watt @ Urbanguild; April 29th

The fourth and final part of the epic seasonal rites sequence by the experimental arts collective, Ensō Watt will take place at Urbanguild, Kyoto on April 29th. This is an event not to be missed!

enso watt final

Date: Wednesday, April 29th
Doors Open:
19:30
Show Starts:
20:00
Tickets on the door:
2700 yen
Tickets in advance:
2000 yen
Student Tickets:
1500 yen
(all tickets include one drink)

About Ensō Watt:
Initiated in 2014 by the sound designer Samuel André, the Ensō Watt artist collective is born in Kyoto from the encounter of artists coming from different countries and raised in entirely different artistic universe, from classical music to electro, improvisation and sound design.

The Seasonal Rites:
A hundred years after Stravinsky’s revolutionary “Rites of Spring,” the members of this artistic collaboration pursue the experience-cum-experiment by focusing on Japan’s seasonal cycles, especially celebrated by the little-known mountainous tribe, the Sanka.

The Show:
The music is inspired by the poetry of Chris Mosdell; it navigates between improvisation and conducted improvisation live by Yannick Paget, based on scored music’s elements. The performers, positioned in the audience, generate an immersive, musical surround-experience (broadcast on 4 speakers). More than just a musical experiment, the event is also shot live via a series of 6 cameras, and is processed and projected on 2 screens during the performance.

city that silk builtThe Poet:
Incidentally, the poet Chris Mosdell recently released a wonderful bilingual book of poems written in Kyoto entitled The City That Silk Built. Chris was kind enough to send me a copy which I shall review in good time, but for now, you can take a look at it on Amazon.co.jp.

For more information on the show:
Press contact: Marguerite Paget: mgtpaget[at]gmail.com / 090 6556 1974
Event coordination: Samuel André: sandre.constellation[at]gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ensowatt?fref=ts

See also the following sites:
Chris Mosdell: http://chrismosdell.com/
Yannick Paget: http://www.yannickpaget.com/
Samuel André: http://p0llenrec.tumblr.com/ https://soundcloud.com/ieva
Ensō Watt: http://ensowatt.org/
Urbanguild: http://www.urbanguild.net/

And my short reviews of the last two Ensō Watt performances here:
Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual
Pictures from Sanka’s Autumn Ritual by Ensō Watt

Kyoto Conference on Contemplation, 27-29 March 2015

“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Many thanks to Peter Cheyne for sending me the following information on an upcoming conference on contemplation at Kyoto Notre Dame University.

flyer-coleridge-and-contemplation-page-0011
Peter writes,

While the title is ‘Coleridge and Contemplation’, not all talks are specifically about Coleridge, although all will discuss aspects of meditation and contemplation.

Each of the three days is loosely themed as follows:

Friday 27th: Literary/ Philosophical

Saturday: Philosophy, and some Religious perspectives

Sunday: Walking, Mystery, Nature, Environment, and some Buddhism

There will be free tea, coffee, juice, drinking water and light snacks during the breaks.

Summaries of each talk can be found on the webpage for each speaker: http://kyotocontemplation.org/plenary-speakers/

Guest Chairs from around Japan will help with some of the sessions, including Kyoto’s own John Dougill (Ryukoku), David Chandler (Doshisha), Rob Kritzer (Kyoto Notre Dame), and Elizabeth Kenney (Kansai Gaidai): http://kyotocontemplation.org/guest-chairs/

Though this is an academic conference, it is open to the public and free of charge.

Please visit the official website to learn more about the schedule and speakers: http://kyotocontemplation.org/

Plum Blossom at the Imperial Palace Park

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On my way home from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine the other day, I stopped by the Imperial Palace Park to enjoy the plum blossom. The trees at Kitano Tenmangu are probably more famous, but the shrine grounds were also a lot more crowded. Though each tree in the park had its admirers, there was really only a small scattering of people around, and so I could enjoy the blooms in a more relaxed and pleasant manner.

Every tree has its admirers...

Every tree has its admirers…

And there is something very calming about viewing plum blossom.

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The scent of plum blossom is subtle, not strong, but deep like wine and very rich. I love to stick my nose in a spray and take a big sniff!

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梅が香に追い戻さるるさむさかな [松尾 芭蕉]

ume ga ka ni
oimodosaruru
samusa kana
~ Matsuo Bashō

plum blossom scent
this chases off
the cold!
( tr. Michael Lambe)

Images from Sanka’s Winter Ritual

On January 25th I attended Sanka’s Winter Ritual; a performance at Urbanguild by the mixed media collective Ensō Watt. Just as  when I attended the Autumn Ritual in October, I was completely enthralled by the mounting energy of this show. It really is a treat to see talented artists from so many varied disciplines blending their abilities so successfully.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room... The audience is bathed in light and sound.

At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room… The audience is bathed in colour and sound.

Of course, it could have all gone horribly wrong. On the one side you have a classically trained composer and conductor (Yannick Paget), and on the other you have an unruly bunch of experimental musicians, video artists and soundscape technicians (everybody else). You might assume that their natural instincts would pull them in two mutually incompatible directions, and you can easily imagine the resulting riotous blasphemy of chaotic sound and colour that would result. Ensō Watt manages to keep the balance between order and liberty just right however, and I think it is that fine balance, that tension between two compulsions that makes their performances so thrilling.

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation...

A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation…

Those experimental artists who are used to playing with complete fresdom, are given a structure in which to contain their genius. The composer/conductor Yannick Paget, who by his training has always played completely fixed and rigid compositions, is suddenly set free to improvise at will. Everyone is playing outside their comfort zone and this provides a sense of adventure.

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

Yasutaka Okada on contrabass

And all of this is inspired by the mystical refrains of Chris Mosdell’s poetry. His words conjure visions of a people (the semi-legendary Sanka tribe) who are swept up in both dread and ecstatic passion at the most elemental forces of life.

Poetry assaults the senses!

Poetry assaults the senses!

Clearly he is in his element, and  it must be a great joy for the poet that his words have inspired the other artists to produce for this one night a magnificent shimmering sanctuary of light and sound.

The poet too is caught up in the magic of the moment.

The poet too, is caught up in the magic of the moment.

Meanwhile, Yannick Paget throws himself into an enraptured percussive performance, while simultaneously (and most wondrously!) maintaining control over the ritual’s flow by conducting the other musicians. How he does all this is a mystery, but as he banged out the final crescendo of rhythm on the drums, it was all I could do to stop myself from throwing up a horny handed salute! The man might be a classical musician by trade, but at heart he is a rock star!

Yannick in the dark.

Yannick in the dark.

It is unfair though, to single out individuals for special praise in this collective. All of the members are brilliant, and their seamless collective pooling of their talents a remarkable phenomenon that I would encourage you all to see. The next miracle from Ensō Watt, the Rite of Spring will be performed at Urbanguild on April 29th. Mark it down in your diaries.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.

To learn more about Ensō Watt and their seasonal rites, visit their website here: http://ensowatt.org/

Hiking the Rice Buyers’ Way

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Into the woods!

Two of the most rewarding activities I have been involved in during my time in Kyoto, are the events organized by the Hailstone Haiku Circle, and the conservation activities of People Together for Mt. Ogura (PTO). Stephen Gill is a primary organizer of both organizations, and so some of their activites tend to merge. So it was that on October 26th Mewby and I took part in a joint Hailstone/PTO hike along the Rice Buyers’ Way between Mizuo and Saga, in Ukyo-ku, Kyoto.

Says Stephen,

The Komekai no Michi 米買の道 was the route taken by citizens of Heian-kyo and their horses and oxen when they went off to buy cheaper, more delicious rice from Mizuo, Koshihata and the province of Tamba beyond. The journey involved climbing at least two passes (there is a third on the way to Koshihata/Kameoka). With an early start and a brisk pace, the buyer’s mission could possibly have been accomplished in a single strenuous day… Few people pass this way nowadays, but the trail is still pretty good…

However, unlike the rice buyers, we would walk in only one direction and not there and back again. Meeting up at Hozukyo station at 9am, we boarded a mini-bus for Mizuo. From here we would hike back to Kyoto. Here are some pictures from our walk.

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The view from Mizuo. This little mountain village was once the home of the Emperor Seiwa (清和天皇, Seiwa-tennō, 850–878) and it was here he passed away.

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Stephen and Mewby tree hugging at Enkaku-ji, Mizuo.

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Here Mewby inspired me. “Look at the spider web shining! Doesn’t it look just like a CD!” she said. And, “Did you know that in experiments spiders change the shape of a web according to the music they are played?”

to what tune
does the spider spin
this disc that snares the light?

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On our way…

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Much of the route is sign-posted.

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Stephen Gill – upstream

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東の田んぼ跡 – The east rice field ruins. Hard to believe this was once farmland.

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Another source of inspiration, this fungus is called サルノコシカケ or Monkey’s seat. Surprisingly it can actually take quite a bit of weight.

a fungal seat –
each in turn, we try to prove
we are monkeys

And Okiharu Maeda’s translation:

座れるか?
サルノコシカケ
人が猿か

Our troop

Our troop

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大岩 – The big rock

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Climbing 大岩

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Scrambling

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Kunugi is a type of oak, but there was no kunugi to be seen here. Maeda-san explained that there must have been one in times past, that was used as a landmark to help people find the way…

for the ghost of the tree,
that pointed the way,
now stands a simple sign

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Mr. Gill in reflective mood

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「アメンボ!」 says Mewby 「見て!」


water strider –
back and forth he stakes a claim:
this rock is mine

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At Kiyotaki

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The Hozu River Gorge

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Closer

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One of PTO’s main activities is collecting rubbish that has been illegally dumped on Mount Ogura. Maeda-san and Stephen were scouting out an area in need of work along the way…

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The return to Saga

Having returned to Saga, those that still had energy visited a Balinese eatery and there over our drinks and just desserts, we shared our haiku. You can read some haiku from the other walkers here: Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

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A reward at journey’s end.

Many thanks to Stephen Gill for organizing a very enjoyable day.

If you would like to join in the activities of the Hailstone Haiku Circle or PTO then please visit the websites below.

https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/
http://www.ptogura.org/ep.html

Autumn Poetry Reading from Kyoto Journal at Be-Kyoto; November 16th

Here’s an up-coming event hosted by the good folks at Kyoto Journal.

poetry

An Autumn Reading
Sunday November 16th.
2pm~3:45pm at Be-Kyoto (http://www.be-kyoto.jp/)
Entry: ¥500
RSVP: feedback[at]kyotojournal.org

Be-Kyoto is just west and north of the Imadegawa/Karasuma intersection.

About the Poets
MARGARET (MAGGIE) CHULA has been writing and teaching haiku, tanka, and haibun for more than thirty years. Her seven collections of poetry include: Grinding my ink; Shadow Lines (linked haibun with Rich Youmans); Always Filling, Always Full; This Moment; The Smell of Rust; What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps (with quilt artist Cathy Erickson) and Just This. Margaret serves as President of the Tanka Society of America. Having lived in Kyoto for twelve years, she now makes her home in Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, gardens, swims, and creates flower arrangements for every room of the house.

LINDA RUSSO (inhabitorypoetics.blogspot.com) is a creative-critical writer. Poetry works include Mirth (Chax Press), and picturing everything closer visible, an excerpt of a walk-in poem (Projective Industries); Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way (Shearsman Books) is forthcoming. Born in New York, she lives in the Columbia River Watershed and teaches at Washington State University.

GREGORY DUNNE is the author of the recently published critical memoir on Cid Corman: Quiet Accomplishment, Remembering Cid Corman (Ekstasis Editions, 2014). He is also the author of two collections of poetry: Home Test (Adastra Press, 2009) and Fistful of Lotus (2000). He lives in Japan and teaches in the Faculty of Comparative Culture at Miyazaki International College.