Thursday, March 14, 2013

Minter on becoming a translator

By the time I left Japan in January 1987 I had become “naturally conscious” in the Japanese language. You might say I’d forgotten English. I transacted most of my daily life in Japanese, and at night I dreamt in it as well. I’d lived with four wonderful families and had attended the senior year of what I later understood to be a prestigious boys school, Asano Gakuen. Here I was taken under the wing of the humanities staff, a group of slightly dishevelled, chain smoking men who let me hang-out in their office rather than attend classes. We drank tea and talked about anything and everything, and in our spirited conversations about life and culture and history and literature I really began to learn and understand Japanese. I took their classes in calligraphy, music, ikebana and art. And it was in that office, three storeys up looking north over a rather desolate playing field, that I began to translate Japanese poetry.
-- from a lovely essay by Australian poet Peter Minter, in the journal Southerly.