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Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems
Spiral Staircase: Collected Poems

Hirato Renkichi

translated by Sho Sugita

Poetry | $17 $14
Spring 2017
Buy"a momentous, of-the-moment figure little known in the English-speaking world."
Once called “the Marinetti of Japan” by David Burliuk, Hirato Renkichi produced a unique brand of Futurism from the late 1910s and early 1920s through poetry, criticism, and guerrilla performance. Contributing to the earliest productions of Japanese avant-garde poetry, his aggressive experimentation with speed, spatialization, and performability would later influence what became a lively community of Dadaist and Surrealist writers in pre-war Japan.Spiral Staircase is the first definitive volume of Renkichi’s poems to appear in English. 

With an introduction by Sho Sugita and an afterword by Eric Selland.

Excerpt ˇ


Meaningful Union

The speedy movement of froth,
The smooth falling
     Shifts of the center,
Denture of curves,
Simultaneous metallic roar,
Meaningful union!
At this organic union,
This mutuality of comfortable determination!Close ˆ

About the Author

Hirato Renkichi
Born Kawahata Seiichi on December 9th 1893 in Osaka, Hirato Renkichi attended Sophia University in Tokyo for three years before dropping out and attending Gyosei Gakko to study Italian. He started writing poetry in 1912, first publishing in Banso under the guidance of Kawaji Ryuko. Although he worked at Hochi Shimbun News and Chuo Bijutsu Art Publishing, he suffered from a pulmonary disease, often failing to make ends meet for his family. He passed away on July 20, 1922 in Tokyo, at the age of 29.

About the Translator

Sho Sugita
Sho Sugita lives in Matsumoto, Japan. His recent poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in VOLT, Poems by Sunday, Chicago Review, 6x6, Lana Turner, Paperbag, A Perimeter, and Asymptote.

Other Contributors

Eric Selland
Eric Selland is a poet and translator living on the outskirts of Tokyo. His translations of Modernist and contemporary Japanese poets have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. He has also published articles on Japanese Modernist poetry and translation theory. He is the author of Beethoven’s Dream (Isobar Press, 2015), Arc Tangent (Isobar Press, 2013), Still Lifes (Hank’s Original Loose Gravel Press, 2012), The Condition of Music (Sink Press, 2000), and an essay in The Poem Behind the Poem: Translating Asian Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). Eric is currently editing an anthology of 20th century Japanese Modernist and avant-garde poetry with poet/translator Sawako Nakayasu. His translation of The Guest Cat, a novel by Takashi Hiraide, appeared in January of 2014 from New Directions Books and made it on the New York Times bestseller list.

Advance Praise

Sho Sugita’s translations of Renkichi … are marvelous, precise, and generously show off Renkichi’s range of styles and emotional modes. The poems are formally radical, wry, performative, obsessive, gorgeous. They read like music. They also fundamentally challenge difficult-to-kill cultural stereotypes of writing from East Asia, be it ancient or contemporary, and that is vital work. I hope Renkichi becomes an avant-garde classic. I can’t get enough. —Wendy Xu, Poetry Magazine
Translator Sho Sugita’s ingenious handling of the high-impact, anxiously mutating poetry of Hirato Renkichi—central to the blink-and-it’s-over Japanese Futurist literary movement, dead at 29—brings into sharp focus a momentous, of-the-moment figure little known in the English-speaking world. Hirato’s spring-loaded motto:

Directness is my mores.
My        action.
My        art.

(from “Poem of Directness”)
—David Grubbs
It's hard to fathom how a poet with such balls could go under the radar for nearly one hundred years. Hirato Renkichi's devotion to poetry puts him in the company of Rimbaud and Mayakovsky, and his work also provides a fascinating view into the flow of experimental forms from west to east in the early twentieth century. Sho Sugita's labor in contextualizing and translating this collection is a real gift to English-language readers.—Lisa Jarnot
...a growing tendency to break up the language and images, abstracting them into a pulse of pure energy that conveys the meaning rather than simply expressing it.—Douglas Messerli