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Friday, November 4, 2011

Nagai on New Letters

Japanese poet and prose writer Mariko Nagai is the guest this week on New Letters on the Air, the podcast hosted by Angela Elam (scroll down to the picture and bio of Nagai to find the button you can click to listen online through November 16, or listen in iTunes anytime; you can also listen on their Facebook page). Originally I listened to this podcast because of the Japan connection, but I learned some interesting things about Nagai that I had not known.

One thing she said that has been on my mind this week is about silence. She doesn't use it to write. In fact, she says she listens obsessively to the same piece of music while writing something, singing away as she types.

She also talked about writing in English, though it is her fourth language (after Flemish, French and Japanese, in that order), but it was the language of her life from age 8 to 24, when she developed into her own personhood. This is  interesting to me as a mother of bilingual sons who are growing to personhood largely in a language which is not mine.

Nagai also discussed translating, which she does a lot of, but said she would never translate her own work, as it would necessarily become a different piece in each language if she were the translator, which is an interesting observation, since it implies that this doesn't happen (or happens to a lesser extent) when she translates others' work or when someone else translates hers.

To enjoy the entire interview, click on the link above.

Now for an update on my memorization project. I dug out my notebook from the last time I attempted this project, and found that I actually had a third poem memorized at the time, Czeslaw Milosz's If There is No God, which is a great poem to memorize because it's only five lines long and the key phrase is repeated in the title and in the first and last lines. I also found out that I had forgotten much of the other Milosz poem I had previously memorized, On Angels, so I will have to brush up on it as well as learn my new poem for the month. Since I have to do both, I've selected a short poem for November's memorization too: Donald Hall's White Apples.

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