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Join us as poet and translator Sho Sugita reads from his translation of Hirato Renkichi's Spiral Staircase (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016).
Once called “the Marinetti of Japan” by David Burliuk, Hirato Renkichi produced a unique brand of Futurism from the late 1910s and early 1920s through poetry, criticism, and guerrilla performance. Contributing to the earliest productions of Japanese avant-garde poetry, his aggressive experimentation with speed, spatialization, and performability would later influence what became a lively community of Dadaist and Surrealist writers in pre-war Japan. Spiral Staircase is the first definitive volume of Renkichi’s poems to appear in English.
“It's hard to fathom how a poet with such balls could go under the radar for nearly one hundred years. Hirato Renkichi's devotion to poetry puts him in the company of Rimbaud and Mayakovsky, and his work also provides a fascinating view into the flow of experimental forms from west to east in the early twentieth century. Sho Sugita's labor in contextualizing and translating this collection is a real gift to English-language readers.”
Born Kawahata Seiichi on December 9th 1893 in Osaka, Hirato Renkichi attended Sophia University in Tokyo for three years before dropping out and attending Gyosei Gakko to study Italian. He started writing poetry in 1912, first publishing in Banso under the guidance of Kawaji Ryuko. Although he worked at Hochi Shimbun News and Chuo Geijutsu Art Publishing, he suffered from a pulmonary disease, often failing to make ends meet for his family. He passed away on July 20, 1922 in Tokyo, at the age of 29.
Sho Sugita lives in Matsumoto, Japan. His recent poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in VOLT, Poemsby Sunday, Chicago Review, 6x6, Lana Turner, Paperbag, A Perimeter, and Asymptote.