Anyone who has ever wandered in the rain alongside the canal in Fushimi, Kyoto on the way to one of the local sake breweries — or anyone who’s had dinner in an East Bay Japanese restaurant, for that matter — probably has some idea of the poetry to be found in a cup of nihonshu, or sake. That poetry becomes literal in Sunday afternoon’s A Celebration of Sake at Berkeley’s Takara Sake Brewery, sponsored by San Francisco’s Center for Art in Translation.
Inspired by the volumes Inu Hyakunin Isshu: A Faux One Hundred Poets and Tegami Sodan, the event combines readings from 10th- to 13th-century canonical poetry and 17th-century satiric commentary — devoted to the drink, of course — with live Japanese music, all washed down with a sip or two of Sho Chiku Bai sake. The poetry is read in translation by Karl Pribram and Ian MacDonald, the latter of whom is also in the midst of translating a collection of Japanese detective stories, according to Shevi Berlinger, managing editor of Two Lines, the center’s journal of international literature in translation. The literary annual’s latest themed edition, the “Power” issue, is out this week. “We’ve published both translators in Two Lines,” says Berlinger on the phone from her SF office. “Almost all our contributors come to us with material. We put out a call for submissions, then announce our theme for the issue.” In addition to putting on bilingual literary events, the nonprofit center (CATranslation.org) also sponsors an outreach project called Poetry Inside Out, and is planning to take Two Lines semiannual with a regional issue on Latin America later this year.
Sunday’s readings, first in English and then in Japanese by Tsutomu Kodama, are accompanied musically by Cinnamon, a duet from Mills College specializing in traditional koto music as well as Japanese pop tunes.
“A Celebration of Sake” takes place from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday in the tasting room of Takara Sake USA Inc., 708 Addison St., Berkeley. Admission is free and open to the public. For further information: 415-512-8812.