The New Japanese Poetry


01Rewriting Humanity2020071220200718 (R4)Poet and Editor Jordan Smith uncovers the unexpected skills of global poets who worked in detention centres and prisons, helping the youth detainees within them process their experience.

American poet Seth Michelson has been working with young children in migrant detention centres, who have been separated from their families and everything they know. Across the ocean, in Japan, poet RYO Michico brought poetry workshops to Nara Juvenile prison which housed youth offenders who have been convicted of crimes. While the young poets they work with are processing trauma of very different circumstances, both Seth and Michiko helped the children find a voice through which to narrate and grasp their own pasts, and to find hope.

Jordan Smith brings Seth and RYO together in conversation to share their experiences, and to hear powerful poetic works that come from unexpected voices.

All the poetry in this programme is written by the young detainees. Seth's work culminated in the poetry anthology Dreaming America. RYO Michico's work has resulted in three poetry books in Japanese - Chose White because the Sky Is Blue, And Kindness Flowed Out, and For a More Beautiful World. An excerpt translation is available in the Tokyo Poetry Journal volume 10.

Produced by Anishka Sharma
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Spotlighting the poetry of young people in migrant detention centres and juvenile prisons.

Poet Jordan Smith explores how Japanese poets are pushing creative boundaries.

Conversations with poets working in detention centres to fight human rights injustices.

Jordan Smith presents a two-part series on trends in Japanese poetry.

Bilingual poet Jordan smith uncovers the unexpected skills of global poets who are working in detention centres and helping those detained to fight for their human rights.

Around the world, children are imprisoned for crimes often resulting from circumstances beyond their control - the need to flee a dangerous homeland, or the struggle to survive amid parental neglect, abuse, or poverty. Most have not known stable, loving childhoods, and some have become deeply, dangerously jaded. The Nara Juvenile Prison situated outside the ancient capital of Japan, Nara City, has sought to humanize prison conditions for inmates, by teaching crafts and skills, and affording them experiences that help deepen self-understanding and enrich their connections to this world.

Japanese poet Ryo Michiko has brought poetry workshops to the prison - helping children find a voice through which to narrate and grasp their own pasts, and to find hope. Her workshops have so far resulted in three books of poetry.

Across the ocean, in the United States, parallel projects have taken root. Award-winning poet Seth Michelson (Professor of Creative Writing at Washington and Lee University) has been working with the mothers of imprisoned migrant children in facilities that require high levels of security clearance to get access.

Jordan Smith brings Seth and Ryo together to share their experiences, discuss how they deal with the surrounding trauma of their work, and consider what poets can offer to a modern world that is rife with injustice.

02Beneath And Beyond Tokyo2020071920200725 (R4)Poet and editor Jordan Smith follows the work of Japanese poets who are experimenting with new poetic forms in order to embed poetry into the Tokyo landscape.

Jordan meets Tokyo based poet Nagae Yuki who has taken inspiration from the genre of steric poetry to celebrate a phenomenon that is completely unique to this city. He also follows a theatrical poetry project, known as Heterotopia, which aims to preserve the historic influence that Asian immigrants have had on Tokyo. A group of Japanese poets came together to lay poems at specific landmarks around the city, creating a virtual audio tour for thousands of visitors. And finally, we hear poet Shiraishi Kazuko's sensual homage to the city, entitled “My Tokyo”.

Produced by Anishka Sharma.

With thanks to Darin Dahlinger and Jae Bordley.

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Following the Japanese poets who are embedding poetry into the city of Tokyo.

Poet Jordan Smith explores how Japanese poets are pushing creative boundaries.