Saturday, March 11, 2017

Complication as a Form of Explication

My proposal has been accepted! I will be speaking about my hybrid creative and critical work-in-progress "Does grass sweat" at Oxford University, Rothermere American Institute, on May 19, for the symposium "Special Relationships: Poetry Across the Atlantic Since 2000." Abstract below. I've read parts of the work at Rutgers at the invitation of Patrick Rosal. So excited to read more of it at Oxford! Thanks for publishing parts of it, H.L. Hix, Bryan Borland, Vivek Narayanan, Eric Thomas Norris, Cindy Arrieu-King, Ryan Wilson, Bry Hos, Cy Rai, Haikuist Network, Rattle, Gulf Coast, Hayden's Ferry, Dusie, Almost Island, Queer Southeast Asia, From Walden to Woodlands, Alba, Assaracus, Literary Matters, Kin, Ten Thirty, The Capilano Review.

Abstract: Complication as a Form of Explication 
by Jee Leong Koh

My work-in-progress "Does grass sweat: translations of an insignificant Japanese poet" deploys the tropes of literary translation and critical commentary to question the boundaries of nation, culture, language, race, and sexuality. Ostensibly written in Japanese by an unknown poet and translated into English by a queer Singaporean writer, student of British poetry, and permanent resident of the USA, the cycle of haiku represents New York City’s Central Park as an expatriate’s daily walk to work. 50 years after its acclaimed publication, in a New York utterly changed by radical conservatism, a queer American of Japanese, Jewish, and German heritage sets forth his own commentary on the haiku “as a way of preserving the park as a public commons, if not in actuality, then in the imagination,” as he puts it. The commentary historicizes the supposedly timeless poems while personalizing them in a highly idiosyncratic manner by referring to a diverse American poetic tradition. By practicing explication as a form of complication, I wish to give voice to the many folds of poetic identity and to the varied contingencies of poetic influence. If my proposal is accepted, I will read the Translator’s Note by Jee Leong Koh and the Commentator’s Preface by Sam Fujimoto-Mayer, before presenting some haiku and their accompanying commentaries.

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