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Well-known Japanese writer, poet visits campus

Sept. 25, 2008

KALAMAZOO--One of the foremost writers of contemporary Japan will speak in the area in early October while on a visit to Western Michigan University.

Hiromi Ito will give a presentation at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, on the 10th floor of Sprau Tower. Her presentation, "Living Between Languages: A Conversation and Bilingual Reading with Hiromi Ito," is free and open to the public.

Ito is known for her bold explorations of the feminine body, sexuality and motherhood. She began her sensational career as a writer in Tokyo in the1980s, but in 1997, she relocated permanently to California, where she still resides. Since that time, she has written poetry and novels about her experiences as a Japanese transplant and the implications of linguistic isolation for self-expression and identity.

In her WMU presentation, Ito will talk about her life in Japan and California, her experiences as a Japanese writer working in America and the implications of migrancy for the development of world literature. She will also read her work in Japanese, along with Dr. Jeffrey Angles, WMU assistant professor of foreign languages, who will read his English translations of her poetry.

Ito was born in 1955. In the 1970s, she gained a reputation as a major voice of a new, liberated generation of young, female poets when she started exploring erotic desire and the experiences of motherhood in bold, free-spirited poetry that shocked and fascinated the Japanese public.

Although drawing heavily upon feminist and psychological theory, her poetry is written in colloquial language that makes her work unusually accessible and direct. She has published over a dozen volumes of poetry, including "Unripe Plums," the two-volume "On Territory," "The Art of Family" and "I Am Anjuhimenko."

After spending several years traveling back and forth between California and Japan, she began living with the British artist Harold Cohen in 1997 and settled with her two daughters in Encinitas, Calif., where she still lives. About the same time she settled in California, she turned to the longer, freer forms of prose, which gave her the room to write at some length about her experiences as a migrant in a country that did not speak her language. Her novellas "House Plant" and "La Nina" were both finalists for the Akutagawa Prize, Japan's highest award for literary fiction. In these and many other recent short stories and essays, Ito applies her signature, colloquial style to create engaging and challenging works that explore many facets of modern migrancy: the legal difficulties of the immigration system, the experience of being a transplant in a new environment, the linguistic isolation of recent arrivals, and the implications of that isolation for self-expression and identity.

Angles is working with Ito to produce a book-length collection of English translations of her poetry, "A Map Marked in a Foreign Tongue."

"Ito is one of the most extraordinary and exciting writers working in the Japanese language today," Angles says.

Ito's trip here is made possible through the Visiting Scholars and Artist Program and is also sponsored by the WMU Department of Foreign Languages, Soga Japan Center and the Haenicke Institute for Global Education.

For more information, contact Dr. Jeffrey Angles at jeffrey.angles@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3044.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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