Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker

Sawako Nakayasu

Reading at the UA Poetry Center (free and open to the public): 7:00pm, November 9, 2023
Keynote Address (free and open to the public): 3:30pm, November 10, 2023 (Tucson Marriott university park hotel)

Photo of Sawako Nakayasu by Mitsuo Okamoto. Sawako, a Japanese woman with medium-short black hair of uneven length, is wearing a red hoodie, black turtleneck, one visible earring, and purple glasses. She is slightly angled, looking this way with a big smile. The background is outdoors and mostly blurry.

Born in Japan and raised in the US, Sawako Nakayasu is an artist working with language, performance, and translation. Her newest books of poetry include Pink Waves (Omnidawn, 2023), a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker award, and Some Girls Walk Into The Country They Are From (Wave Books, 2020), both of which engage the intersection between writing and translation. Mouth: Eats Color – Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-translations, & Originals is a multilingual work that combines both original and translated poetry. Settle Her, which was written on the #1 bus line in Providence on Thanksgiving Day of 2017, on the occasion of her cutting ties with normative Thanksgiving celebrations, is forthcoming from Solid Objects.

Her pamphlet, Say Translation Is Art (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020), which encourages the untethering of translated texts from conventional relationships to their source texts, has been taught, translated, or performed in the US and in Europe – including as a spoken word performance by Danielle Zawadi in Dutch translation, at the Dutch Foundation for Literature’s Annual Translation Convention in 2022.

Her translation of the Japanese modernist poet Sagawa Chika, The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa, supported by the NEA and published by Canarium Books in 2015, received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, and was a finalist for the National Translation Award in Poetry. It was subsequently acquired by Penguin/Random House for their Modern Library series and republished in 2020 in a new edition with updated introduction. Poet Sagawa Chika: Late Gathering, currently under development with the Brown Digital Publications Initiative, is a “born digital,” scholarly publication based on Sagawa’s poetry and legacy.

Her translations of contemporary Japanese poetry have led her to co-edit with Eric Selland an anthology of Japanese Experimental Poetry in the 20th Century, forthcoming from New Directions, which features the work of 40 Modernist and 47 postwar (postmodern) Japanese poets. One poet featured in the anthology is Takashi Hiraide, whose For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut Nakayasu translated in its entirety. The work received the 2006 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant, and upon publication by New Directions in 2008 received the Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent.

Recent co-translated books include contributions to Yi Sang: Selected Works (Wave Books, 2020, co-translated with Don Mee Choi, Jack Jung, and Joyelle McSweeney), which received the MLA—Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work, and to Factory Girls by Takako Arai (co-translation, edited by Jeffrey Angles, Action Books, 2019).

Sawako's reading and keynote address are supported by the UA Poetry Center, and the keynote address is also supported by the UA Center for East Asian Studies.


Photo credit: Mitsuo Okamoto