Mutsuo Takahashi (高橋睦郎) (1937– ) is one of Japan’s most prominent living poets, having won almost every major poetry prize in the nation. Since first attracting the attention of the literary world with his bold poetic evocations of homoerotic desire in the 1960s, Takahashi has published several dozens of books of poetry and many more volumes of essays and literary criticism. Several collections of poems are available in English translation, including Poems of a Penisist (University of Minnesota Press, 2012) and Two Shores (Dedalus, 2006), as is his memoir about his youth as a gay boy in war-torn Japan, Twelve Views from the Distance (University of Minnesota Press, 2012). Takahashi lives in the seaside city of Zushi, about ninety minutes by train from central Tokyo. These translations come from his magnum opus Only Yesterday (Shichōsha, 2018), in which Takahashi revisits the major themes of his long poetic career in short, pithy poems. Writing in an archaic style that echoes old translations of the classics, Takahashi borrows themes, ideas, and archetypes from ancient Greek literature to speak about the problems of the twenty-first century world.
Jeffrey Angles (1971– ) is a poet, translator, and professor of Japanese literature at Western Michigan University. His collection of poetry Watashi no hizukehenkōsen (My International Date Line, 2016), which he wrote in Japanese, won the Yomiuri Prize for Literature, making him the first non-native speaker ever to win this award, comparable to a Pulitzer in the United States, for a book of poetry. In addition, he has published dozens of translations of Japan’s most important modern authors and poets, earning numerous prizes for his translation work. He believes strongly in the role of translators as activists, and much of his career has focused on the translation into English of socially engaged, feminist, or queer writers.
Author photo: Martin Figura.