Sonora Review

SR72 Contributor Interviews: Sho Sugita

What is it about the genre or cross-genre you write in that interests you/draws you in?

A lot of poetry can be stuck inside an echo chamber of self-admiration. That doesn’t interest me very much as a reader. But poetry is intensely appealing when it is able to draw in a constellation of multiple disciplines, and the resulting work makes an atlas of diverse thoughts and processes. Like field notes of the world, I suppose.

How does this published piece fit in with the larger thematic concerns that you see in your overall work?

I’ve been thinking of poetry as an extension of translation. The published piece is an excerpt from a long poem that deals with the politics of translation—authority, authorship, the “fluency” of language, among other things. I think of writing poetry as a way to figure out how to translate & translating poetry as a way to figure out how to write.

What are you influenced by? 

I admire Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, and Rosmarie Waldrop. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed Wendy Xu’s Phrasis. Clive Scott’s Translating Apollinaire is a really intense read. Jazz, electro-acoustic music, and noise also bleed into my thoughts. Additionally, I’m pretty sure the early morning J-Alert missile alarms are still swimming inside my psyche.

What does your typical writing schedule look like? What aspects of working do you look forward to? What aspects frustrate you?

I translate medical manuscripts for work. Once a week, I also work at my friend’s trout farm to get out of the house. Otherwise, I write/translate poems and tinker with circuits/code that make noise. This is related to my answer to the second question, but I find that writing is a good way to improve my skills as a translator.

For fun, if you could pick one meal that matches the piece we published, what would it be and why?

Castella, a Japanese sponge cake derived from the Portuguese Pão de Castela. It’s a cake that’s lost in Portugal but somehow survived in Japan. I like the idea of something that lacks the ability to generate its own historical life and shows a naïve struggle (or according to Nietzsche, a “blind lust”) for collecting and preserving in one way or another. I like surrounding myself with these kinds of continuous or partial failures. They leave some “room” to fiddle with.

SHO SUGITA lives and writes in Matsumoto, Japan. His translation of Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems of Hirato Renkichi (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017) is the first book of Japanese Futurist poetry to appear in English. More information can be found at http://shosugita.net