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WMU professor first American to win Japan's biggest poetry prize

Apr 4, 2017

The Yomiuri Prize, Japan's equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize, has honored exceptional literary works for nearly 70 years. Now, for the first time, an American took home the prize for poetry.

Jeffrey Angles, a professor of world languages and literatures at Western Michigan University, won the award for his book Watashi no hizukehenkōsen, which translates to "My International Date Line" in English.

Hear Angles read his poem "Time Difference" in English and Japanese here:

"I started writing poetry in Japanese around the year 2010," Angles said. "As a professor, I study Japanese literature and I had always been interested in Japanese poetry. I'm a passionate reader of poetry in English as well. So, at a certain point, after studying Japanese poetry for a long time, after translating a lot of Japanese poetry, I decided to see if I could write it myself and to my surprise, it worked out."

That's to say the least. Winning the prize caps a lifetime of interest in the Japanese language that dates back to the Ohio native's first trip to Japan when he was 15 years old.

Listen to the full interview above to learn how people in Japan react to his book.

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