Andrew Fitzsimons spoke at the first Tokyo Humanities cafe in June 2017. He was born in Ireland, and is a Professor at Gakushuin University, Tokyo. As well as essays on Irish poetry, he has published on Beckett and Shakespeare, and contemporary British poetry, and translated from Italian poets, including Eugenio Montale and Andrea Zanzotto. His study of Thomas Kinsella, The Sea of Disappointment, was published in 2008 by UCD Press, and he edited Thomas Kinsella: Prose Occasions 1951-2006 (Carcanet, 2009).
His poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies in Ireland, Britain, Italy, Japan, the United States, and Canada, including the Global Poetry Anthology 2013. He was runner-up for the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Montreal Prize in 2013. He has published two volumes of poetry, What the Sky Arranges (Isobar Press, 2013), and A Fire in the Head (Isobar Press, 2014). His new book, a version of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Il Porto Sepolto, will be published by Isobar Press in 2017.
1. Can you describe a turning point in your career?
Deciding to go to university, after two years of packing cakes in a bakery, straight after leaving secondary school. There had to be something better. And there was.
2. What question are you currently exploring in your work?
Two related projects: translating Dante, and looking at his influence in Irish writing in the twentieth century.
3. Which artist or writer has had the most influence on you?
4. What do you think is the value of the humanities?
Maybe Czeslaw Milosz's lines will do?
'What is poetry which does not save Nations or people? A connivance with official lies A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment' (Dedication, 1945)
5. What does the future hold for your field?
As the woman replied when asked what weather she was expecting: ‘More of it’! To be less facetious, I wonder how the extraordinary technological advances that have come and are coming will inform the ways in which we write and read, and what the weight of the word will be.