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Misumi Mizuki

I'm generally a fan of Misumi Mizuki's works, and I'm far from alone in that respect – not only has she won major awards like the Nakahara Chuya Prize (while still a university undergrad) and the Gendai-shi Techo Prize, but she also has thousands of followers on Twitter, which is the ultimate measure of having transcended the readership of poetry (kidding, sort of...).

I've been fortunate to work on translations of a number of her poems for unusual projects. One of these was a poem Misumi co-authored with Sheena Ringo for the Paralympics Closing Ceremony (2016).

Ringo and Misumi's poem was composed based on observations of Tokyo by Hiyama Akira, a blind  with whom she has worked previously on such projects as the Japan iteration of DIALOG IN THE DARK, a social entertainment experience wherein blind guides lead participants on tours in the dark. This became "Arrows of Voice, Map of Words" at the Yokohama Paratrienniale 2014.

This poem was projected in Japanese and English, whirling across the screens above stage at the Paralympics Closing Ceremony while Hiyama performed with some incredibly talented dancers.


(The image above is from the Paralympics website, about halfway through the flash slideshow. Hiyama is figured in center.)

Video above from Paralympics Closing Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Misumi and Sheena Ringo's poem appears around 6:04.

Video below from Velladon's collab with Misumi. Lyrics are woven throughout the video.

Misumi also worked on a series of poems for the 100th Anniversary of the founding of NSK, Ltd. This is a company that makes ball-bearings – I know, sexy right?


They have a bunch of cool projects with various media artists and robotics designers (including Sputniko! – if you don't know Sputniko!, then just stop what you're doing and click over to learn more about this robot designer who designs and makes robots, then writes songs about them, then makes awesome videos for the songs involving the robots. Oh, she's also a professor at MIT. Can you tell I'm a fan?).

Anyway, Misumi traveled around to all of NSK's production sites in Japan, writing poems about each one. I had a blast translating them, learning about ball bearings and precision machine components like the monocarrier in the process..

Here's their press release.

I also translated an album's worth of lyrics my Misumi for musical artist Velladon. Check out the music videos featuring the lyrics via the YouTuber player.

You can see more of my translations of her work in Tokyo Poetry Journal (vol. 4, 2017) and U.S.-Japan Women's Journal (vol. 51, 2017).

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