Sally Ito

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Photo credit: 
Sally Ito
Biography: 

Sally Ito is a Japanese Canadian poet and literary translator who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She has published three books of poetry, Frogs in the Rain Barrel, Season of Mercy, and Alert to Glory and has published the poems of Japanese children's poet Misuzu Kaneko with co-translator Michiko Tsuboi in the illustrated children's picture book, Are You an Echo: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko.  Ito has studied poetry and creative writing at the University of British Columbia and at Waseda University in Tokyo.  She currently teaches creative writing at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. Ito's poetic interests are in poetry translation in Japanese and in German where she works collaboratively with co-translators who are either poets themselves or are intimately familiar with the language in translation.  Much of Ito's poetry focuses on Christian spirituality and faith from which she draws inspiration and hope as well as from Japanese poets like Misuzu Kaneko and Kenji Miyazawa.

Because Ito grew up bilingual, she is fascinated with how language conveys a culture's sensibility, temperament and disposition.  In her translation work, she aims to discover how and why words mean or represent what they do in their respective language.  Ito is also fond of social platforms for poetry and has used FB to write daily haiku and Instagram to share the poetry of others.     

Micro-interview: 
Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

Yes, and it was in high school that I began writing poetry.  Because I went to Japanese school as a teenager, I was struck early on by Japanese poetic forms like the haiku and was drawn to this form because of its origins in Japanese culture.  But later on when I went to university, I took courses on the Romantic poets like Keats, Wordsworth, and Shelley and found their poems speaking to me. In terms of poetics, however, I would have to say the Imagists like Ezra Pound, W.C. Williams, HD wrote in a style that was familiar to me, probably because of the Eastern influence -- it was a style I wanted to emulate.  I think now of how impactful the poem In a Station of a Metro was for me with its stark imagery of 'petals on a wet, black bough.'  

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I first started writing poetry when I was in high school.  I had an intense dream with images of blood and shadows in it, and I immediately wrote it down as a poem.  Then I showed it to my high school English teacher -- in hindsight, I don't think the poem was very good -- but the act of showing her the poem was when I began thinking of myself as a poet. 

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

To translate life into words. 

If you have a poem in our anthology what inspired you to write it?: 

God the Tea Master was inspired by my visits to and readings about Japanese tea houses and attending tea ceremonies.  Japanese tea ceremony masters like Sen-no-Rikyu created the ritual of the tea ceremony as a Zen-like practice where notable samurai warriors could commune in a small, humble abode with one another and be served.  This idea -- of putting down one's weapons, crawling through a hole-like entrance into a 'clean, well-lit' place (to borrow from Hemingway!) to be served caught my imagination -- what if God were the Tea Master, and we, his samurai guests?  And so it was, God the Tea Master was conceived and written. 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

Love (III) by George Herbert.  

Publications: 
Title: 
Frogs in the Rain Barrel
Publisher: 
Nightwood Editions
Editors: 
Marisa Alps
Date: 
1995
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Season of Mercy
Publisher: 
Nightwood Editions
Editors: 
Marisa Alps
Date: 
1999
Publication type: 
Book
Title: 
Alert to Glory
Publisher: 
Turnstone Press
Editors: 
Sharon Caseburg
Date: 
2011
Publication type: 
Book