Tokyoatoto is made of and from a hand-written book composed by the poet Sam Truitt in the course of a 2019 Tokyo sojourn. The writing includes, among other elements, descriptions, impressions, insights into Japanese life and culture and the concrete exigencies of negotiating a foreign land. This last aspect is somewhat complicated by the fact Truitt lived in Tokyo for four years from the age of three and that Japanese was very close to his first language. Moreover the culture of Japan was also close to his first, so that this influence acts as a palimpsest backfield to the writing as the author both seeks and betimes touches traces of its influence. Tokyoatoto's structure is unique in that Truitt seeks to foreground that movement toward originality by reproducing in facsimile the pages of the hand-written book, with their transcriptions appearing on opposite pages. An engaging, thoughtful and sometimes profound glimpse into contemporary life in Tokyo from a perspective of complicated naivety, Tokyoatoto is a fast, entertaining poetic flight full of pratfalls, missed connections, slips and surrenders in which, as the author writes on a Tokyo subway passage, "one senses a web each of us hold together & against & around us like a net knit of civility not docility as there are some faraway landscapes in our mind & in our heart & our bodies are dreaming all of them uniting to listen to the underground hum its magic."
ADVANCE PRAISE for Tokyoatoto
“Sam Truitt has added a wonderful new innovative example of one of my favorite genres—travel poetry. By way of two ‘T squares’ (Times and Tiananmen), on the way to Japan, he generously expands the notational into double accordion-fold expanses, condensing sound, thought, perception and time. The reader is invited into the poet’s process alternating between quicksilver caught thought to poems lifted to the next level of line-break shape and form. The notebook page determines each ‘song’s’ length, much as Kerouac does with his MEXICO CITY BLUES, each part fitting in a pocket notebook. Here Truitt scores his poems across vertical lines, creating a palimpsest that references both the verticality of written Japanese language cross-hatched with English, as well as flown-through clouds of sound gathering in storm. In this travelogue of the present moment back in time to a formative locale, what’s here now? In this delightful map of the mind moving we are given both deft improvisation and sculptural thought-song of all senses played ‘toward the most beautiful / place on earth 52 years / coming home.’”
—Lee Ann Brown, author of Philtre: Writing in the Dark 1989-2020
“Inscription and transcription, the two fundamental modes of literary composition, echo each other in this work. The texts alternate—notebook handwritten, poem typeset—calling their relationship into a dialogue. We stop seeing one as the inevitable outcome of the other. The process of writing interweaves the autographic hand and the allographic type, the individual expression and the linguistic system. Are the works ‘the same’ in each version—or does the process engage us with the impossibility of their being identical to each other. The intimacy of writing as note-taking feels palpably present. We intrude on those personal pages, even in facsimile. By contrast, the public-facing presentation of the typeset texts feels bold, exposed, declaratively blunt in its directness. Throughout, the texts themselves constantly reference lines and notations, divisions and demarcations, marking personal time and actual space across coordinates of language. Tracking, tracing, defining, delineating—all the many terms of writing activate this work and its notational transits.”
—Johanna Drucker, author of Diagrammatic Writing
“Pop testimony, an epiphany going from language to a linguistic beyond of sullen images (too good to be entropy, though), conforming the edge of a (self) reflective anthroposphere. This staccato rumination shows culture to be something less (and more) than the usual accumulation-in-progress of technical & folkloric victories. Tokyoatoto is fine funk.”
—Omar Pérez, author of Cubanology