Of Sawako Nakayasu’s many literary endeavors—poetry, translation, performance art—it is hard to know where one begins and another ends. They each seem to not only be talking to each other but Sawako’s work also blurs the boundaries between them, nesting each within the next in a way that illuminates something about all three. Her latest poetry collection, Pink Waves, is a perfect example of this, poetry written within a durational performance, one that involves “microtranslations” of the syntax of the works of others. As Fred Moten says about Pink Waves: “In a deliberate lyricism of regathering, tethering, and receding precedence, in a perpetual canon that keeps spilling and sifting and replenishing what feels like dancing, in a series of breaks weaving wave and snap into writing that listens, Sawako Nakayasu takes the measure of the enjoyment we derive from sensing and making sense of this wasteland of bandwidth and access. Pink Waves is a delicate instrument. Its spare beauty picks up everything.”
Much of Sawako Nakayasu’s genre-transgressive work calls into question our notions of originality and selfhood, as she herself explores questions of race and gender and sexual orientation within her poems. By bringing together these various elements, Sawako Nakayasu creates generative questions: How can queer theory speak to translation practices? How can we engage with questions of power between nations and languages and cultures by the choices we make in translation? What does performance tell us about ourselves, and the notion of a self to begin with? And how do these performative and translational activities manifest in poetry, in poems?
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