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Japan Times reviews Jane Nakagawa’s incidental music


Japan Times reviews Jane Nakagawa’s incidental music


Existence is but a brief shimmer of light



INCIDENTAL MUSIC, by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa. BlazeVOX, 2010, 112 pp., $16.00 (paper); and NOTATIONAL, by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa. Otoliths, 2011, 68 pp., $12.45 (paper).


If the saying is true that "writing about art is like dancing about architecture" — or, as Martin Amis argues, that, when reviewing poems, critics do not respond with sonnet sequences — then, writing about poetry collections is like tap dancing on top of the Tokyo Sky Tree, a dizzying experience that could possibly end in disaster and calumny.



That said, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa's latest books warrant attention, regardless of the dangers. Originally from the United States, the poet lives in central Japan, and it is from the poetry of these two countries that her work emerges, converges, and diverges.


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incidental music Jane Joritz-Nakagawa BlazeVOX [books]

 Whereas traditional poetics relied on meter and rhyme to create structure, the poems in incidental music use chains of association, sound, and logic to explore the form behind form. These cleverly wrought poems do what the greatest of poetry does — serve as objects of contemplation inviting the reader into a small universe both familiar and unfamiliar, knowable and unknowable. These poems challenge and thrill.


Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s incidental music presents an atonal surround sound of turbulent registers. In this work there is dissonance and friction at the level of figuration—a “welding of phenomenological scalpels”. These poems are filled with humans facing human conundrums. Joritz-Nakagawa’s lyrics emphatically convey that a wound is not a tomb—the tone is often solemn but also wry. “These are not full truths” — chaos threatens time and despair close to oblivion is unraveled in paradoxical lines, yet there is a bold confidence emitted, a pact is made to keep going. Amidst the rumble is an evanescence that can’t be collapsed into a flat plane.


incidental music
 is attentive to the deep formal traditions of poetry in the western tradition: the sonnet, the pantoum, the cinquain, the rondeau, the triolet, the ghazal. And yet, as Jane Joritz-Nakagawa well knows, these traditions get their strength in how they intertwine with the contemporary. Incidental music is both innovative and inclusive of all that poetry can do.




Originally from the U.S.A., Jane Joritz-Nakagawa lives in central Japan. Her poems, essays, and interviews have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and Japan. incidental music is her fifth book of poems. Email is welcome at janenakagawa at yahoo dot com.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 112 pages
· Binding: Perfect-Bound
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 
· cover painting by Joanne G. Yoshida
· ISBN: 9781935402947


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