Ming Di: As a Japanese poet living in Germany, do you ever feel like an “outsider” in the home country as well as in the adopted country (an outsider everywhere as many diaspora poets feel)? Who do you regard as your literary family and friends?
Yasuhiro Yotsumoto: On the practical level, I have been able to keep a small but exceptional company of editors and fellow writers in Japan so I have never felt completely alienated. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have managed to keep writing in Japanese while living outside the country over the past three decades (well, almost)! But on another, deeper, level, I have always wanted to be an outsider: not so much from Japan as a nation or Japanese poets as a social circle, but from the very concept of ‘poetry’ in the Japanese literature. I wanted to be a new, foreign element, however trivial and peripheral, in our 1500 years tradition, stretching the very concept of poetry. The title of my first book (1991), A Laughing Bug, symbolized this self-image of myself, as a computer bug who wanders about inside the system, causing infection and mutation. Overall, writing outside Japan and away from the social circles helps me in this regard. I am quite happy the way I am now.
As for my literary family and friends, they tend to be ‘exile’ poets, such as Dante and Kino Tsurayuki (866 or 872 to 945), and the poets who are not shy about bringing banal, everyday-life elements into poetry such as Wislawa Szymborska and Philip Larkin.
MD: A “new element” of the “1500 years tradition” of Japanese poetry. Interesting. Do you think one has to be outside the home country and outside poetry to achieve that? You left Japan in 1986, first came to the US to attend the Wharton for an MBA and then settled in Munich, Germany in 1994. As a Japanese businessman in Germany, what makes you so devoted to poetry and so productive in writing?
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