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robin d. gill

an ecoradical, editing, translating, writing and, since october 31, 2003,  publishing in two languages.


Life History: 22 years in Miami (mostly Key Biscayne), 20 in Japan, 6 in Washington DC, 5 in Newberry (N. Florida), 1 in Brooklyn and memorable months in Mexico DF, Korea, London, Edinburgh and on two Swedish freighters. I see the above comes out about 10 years short, but i look far younger than i am, so i guess it is my nature to lose time almost as fast as i gain it.

Main Work: Having neither the money to hire a typist nor the ability to type myself,  I wrote my first seven books completely by hand in a language that welcomed real manuscript, Japanese, rather than in my native tongue, English.   These books – meant to help Japanese break free of an over-simplistic worldview, where all culture tended to be cast in Western vs. Japanese/Eastern terms, and adopt a more positive ecological attitude – were published by top publishing houses (below) and well received (reviews, on right) and reprinted.  While writing, I worked as an acquisitions editor and translation checker for Kousakusha and Papyrus, small editorial publishers in Tokyo.   The list of authors/books/translators I served shows my interest in intelligent but not overly academic nonfiction combining literary and scientific sensibilities (books served). 

After 20 years in Japan working for peanuts (fact, not complaint:  my employers could not help it; they were always in tight circumstances), I am back in the USA and typing up a storm in English on an underpowered laptop (update: my current pc has the power but the software is retarded).  My books-to-be mostly fall into five categories:  1) Anthologizing, translating and explaining haiku about selected themes  to create a 20-volume almanac of 200 themes and dozens of spin-off books, ranging from the abstract (summer heat) to the concrete (a sea cucumber); 2) Cannibalizing my own work published in Japan to create books on culture for an English-reading audience; 3) Long-term book projects on favorite subjects not directly Japan-related (on a hyper-conscious cat, on the beauty of softness, on Thoreau's journal); 4) Books which author-publisher paraverse press hopes to co-create (perhaps from 2010);  5) Translations of favorite old books.  UPDATE as follows: Five years caring for a family member who was sweet but not an intellectual companion alone in a rural farmhouse made the haiku project impossible. I needed to exercise my wit and keep myself laughing as much as possible as i worked -- subject to being called for emergencies at all times -- and that meant researching and writing on kyouka, or mad-poems that were not even on my radar when I had to leave beautiful Key Biscayne for N. Fla with a two-week notice. After two preliminary books on mad poems, and after my sister passed away, I read the remaining two large anthologies at the only university library to have them both outside of Japan: Columbia U in NYC.  Actually, i did not read them IN the library but on a rocking-chair i found in a trashpile and carried up to the cheapest apt i could find in Brooklyn. Now, back down in Miami, I am working around the clock to turn the 30,000 or so poems i had-copied and later typed into a word doc of over a million words that keeps freezing my CPU (stupid MS insists on counting words for Japanese w the new 2013 and as Japanese does not define words as English does there is hell to pay), as i was saying, i must turn this into 3 bks of 10,000, 1,000 and 100 poems, respectively. These will be in Japanese alone and for Japanese and my hope is that when Japanese discover how BOLD and COMIC and INNOVATIVE they once were, they will be refreshed with creative spirits and bust free from the cultural doldrums they entered long before the tsunami, earthquake and radiation disaster. I also hope it will bring me a large enough readership to stop writing and spend all of my time on hypershort animation (think of flipbooks) but that is another story.

See the Paraverse Press book lines for more details on scores of books.

Other Work:  I also had shows of my etchings and sculpture in the USA, Japan and Korea, experimented with free-tension string-instrument-making (one string ), inventing new methods of making music by feel that I hope to share with the world some day, and, last but not least explored the possibilities of hypershort animation which would be the most active part of our visual arts world today if soft and hardware engineers and the CEO's of the worlds computer-related corporations had an ounce of imagination.

Philosophy: Stay still, waste not (except for words, as they cost little energy) and be completely open about everything.  Whatever money I/paraverse makes will be posted on this site. Update: With an average income of about $1000./year for the first six years of business, I stopped posting information on money. It is just too sad. If the many new books out and pr activities in the Fall-Winter of 2009 bring a substantial income, the Red & Black page will be updated.

Name:   My Japanese books, most of which are now out of print,  may be found (in a few fine libraries) on First Search's Worldcat ("au: robin gill" lang. "in japanese").  Note that no middle initial is used.  Unfortunately, my work and that of an English theologian and prolific writer named Robin Gill became hopelessly jumbled together – my Japanese readership sometimes buys them by mistake (I was even asked to sign one at a book fair) – so, I will use the name "robin d. gill," with my middle initial, preferably written in small letters, when writing in my native tongue to avoid further confusion.  My haiku name is keigu [respectfool(ishness)].


published books

in english

Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!  1000 holothurian haiku in the Japanese original and in multiple translation:  Paraverse Press.  2003.  See new books.  

Orientalism and Occidentalism: Is Mistranslating Culture Inevitable?  Paraverse Press. 2003.  See  new books.

Fly-ku!  To Swat or Not to Swat. Anthropomorphism and haiku. Paraverse Press.  2004.  See  new books.

Topsy-turvy 1585:  611 ways the Europeans and Japanese were Contrary according to a Tract by Luis Frois, S.J. translated and explicated . . . : Paraverse Press. July 2004. A short version: 2005. See  new books.

Cherry Blossom Epiphany – The Poetry and Philosophy of a Flowering Tree.  Translation and explanation of about 2500+ Edo and period haiku and 200+ ancient waka about cherry blossoms and blossom-viewing. Paraverse Press. 2007. See  new books.

The Fifth Season – Poems for the Recreation of the World, or In Praise of Olde Haiku vol. 1 new year ku (books 1 and 2 of 4). Paraverse Press. 2007.  See  new books.

The Woman Without a Hole – And Other Risky Themes from Old Japanese Poems (same book also Octopussy, Dry Kidney & Blue Spots – Dirty Themes from 18-19c Japanese Poems) or, 18-19c senryû. Paraverse Press. 2007.  See  new books.

Mad In Translation – a thousand years of kyôka, comic poetry in the classic waka mode.  Paraverse Press. 2009.  See  new books.

Coming in Fall, 2009.  A Short version of Mad In Translation. A Dolphin In the Woods (after Horace) re. composite and multiple translation). The Cat Who Thought Too Much (with illustrations).

Note:  Medium length of books is 500 pages. Medium price is $25. For reviews, please go to the Review Traffic Page.

in japanese

1) 0moshiro Hikaku Bunka‑ko (entertaining thought on comparative culture), Kirihara‑shoten: 1984.  The book challenges the antithetical stereotypes of English and Japanese, and argues that languages are more similar in terms of overall psychological gestalt than their different parts suggest.  Republished (with a more appropiate name chosen by the author and lengthened by a tenth) as Eigo‑wa Konna‑ni Nippongo (English is that Japanese), Chikuma‑bunko (pocket-book): 1989.  [Kirihara-shoten is a well-known education publisher and Chikuma is one of Japan’s largest and highly regarded literary presses]

2)  Nihonjinron Tanken (exploration of stereotypes of national character), TBS Britannica: 1984. An attempt to diagnose and treat Japan's "uniqueness syndrome." [TBS Britannica was a wealthy publisher at the time but killed this book by insisting onb a boring title].

3)  Han‑Nihonjinron ‑ a touch of nature (preface by E.O. Reischauer, former ambassador to Japan), Kousakusha: 1984. In its fifth printing. This large and heavily illustrated book against national character stereotyping concentrates on the relationship of culture and the natural world (called fudo-ron in Japanese), and our perception of this relationship. [The publisher I worked for and, I believe, one of the best small presses in the world].

4)  Goyaku Tengoku ‑ wordplay and misplay, Hakusuisha: 1987.  Went fourth printings. Using the butchered translation of Peter Farb's Word Play as the warp, this boldly woven criticism‑by‑example of Japan's "Mistranslation Paradise" shows how cultural preconceptions are responsible for patterns of mistranslation. [Hakusuisha is a highly respected publisher of translated fiction, dramatic and educational work]

5)  Kora!mu, Hakusuisha: 1989. A collection of the author's essays published in various media from 1983‑1988, loosely centered around Occidentalism, stereotypes about the West.

6) Chugoku‑no Maza Gusu, Kitazawa Shoten: 1991. Essays accompanied by selections from I.T. Headland's Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes (1900) and a long afterword, mostly on the nature of end‑rhyme, something that does not exist in Japanese. [Kitazawa is my favorite bookstore.]

7) Eigo‑wa Konna‑ni Nippongo (English is that Japanese), Chikuma‑bunko (pocket-book): 1989.  It is hard to say if a book (see 1, above) with 10% added and a new name should be counted as another book or not. [See 1, above]

Chapters from my books work are included in several anthologies, discussions in magazines and a major encyclopedia. I wrote the Afterword for the translation of Loren Eiseley’s Night Country,  and had columns, features and other article, interviews and debates published in scores of magazines from the prestigious Chuokoron and Kagaku Asahi (Asahi's science magazine) to the classy weekly Aera, the huge pop-culture magazine Brutus, the more specialist Sinica and even short-lived music magazines, and major newspapers such as Asahi (bunka= culture page) and Mainichi (full-page interview).   I have not kept a list,  for I do not seek tenure.

Excerpts from Reviews

of  books by "Robin Gill" *  published in Japan
(and described at the bottom of the left column).

* I did not use my middle initial for my books in Japanese, so
beware of conflating me with a theologian of the same name!

“I bow my head to the author’s linguistic prowess [re.book 1].” – Inoue Hisashi (reader’s card) – a top Japanese novelist and playwright.

"What felt good about reading it [re: book 3] was that the book doesn't get bogged down in Japan, but develops into a theory of culture [bunkaron] ... it is remarkable for not being prejudiced either for or against the past." – ITASAKA Gen (review in magazine "Honyaku‑no Sekai"), a Japanese literature scholar who formerly taught at Harvard and later became the president of Tenri University.

“The author’s Thoreauvian naturalism is splendid . . . and the book [book 3] leaves you feeling better than reading ten of those popular Japan-as-Number-One type books.” – Matsuoka Seigow (review in an NTT book) – one of Japan’s top editors and well-known avant-garde thinker.

"A splendid deconstruction of longstanding stereotypes of Japanese national/cultural character (nihonjinron) that, wearing the academic guise of cultural anthropology and topographic/climatic reductionism, (fudoron), have titillated our pride." – Kyodo News Service (review carried nationally).

"Whether due to the flexibility and uniqueness of the perspective or the continual dissimulation of the author's Japanese writing, this book [book 2] is simply thrilling. Introducing example after example of things from other cultures that have been held to be unique to Japan, the author's point is that we must not allow our obsession with "Japaneseness" to stop us from facing up to the human agenda in this Age where we are capable of spoiling the earth." – TSUMURA Takashi (also Kyodo), a well‑known practitioner and advocate of Eastern medicine and meditation

"This book [1] possesses dynamite power to destroy common stereotypes about the nature of Japanese and Western culture, which it actually demonstrates by linguistic comparison." – "Tokushima Shinbun" (reviewer for a local newspaper)

"I look forward to seeing how the big‑shot scholars are going to respond to this [1]." – NADA Inada, a famous psychologist, author and personality.

"This is not a book [4] that is merely 'interesting'... it is a book of anger and shame, that gives a mighty Konishiki [when the sumo wrestler was in good form!] – like shove against the ozeki‑mutual‑aid association [Ozeki is sumo’s second highest rank: there was official resistance to Konishiki's rapid advance up the ranks of sumo] of Japanese academism."SATO Yoshiaki, writer and translator of several books by Gregory and Catherine Bateson.


For reviews of my recent books in English, (RISE, YE SEA SLUGS! and ORIENTALISM & OCCIDENTALISM)         please see  New books!


Books Served    by robin d. gill

A score of a hundred or so books I found for my employing publishers.  I checked the Japanese of many from cover-to-cover and most, in part.  This is from memory, so it may be imperfect. 


Allen, Mea: Darwin’s Flowers.  A good study of Darwin’s botanical interests and contributions starting with the best condensation of the Beagle trip I have read. (The translator did not make me work hard for this book found in a used-book-store.)

Beer, Gillian: Darwin’s Plots.  I am not a big fan of literary criticism, but Beer has a foot on the ground (science) and writes beautiful convoluted sentences I like but which are hell for translators. (I helped some with the translation, but not as much as I would have liked to).

Cole Robert:  The Spiritual Life of Children, The Moral Life of Children. These books full of taped quotes of children’s voices are far better than Cole’s other work I have read. (I found and helped with both books, published respectively by my two employing publishers, but more so with the second, for its translator is a friend.)

Cronin, Helen:  The Ant and the Peacock.  The subjects of sexual selection and group-fitness are brilliantly summarized. (Checked the entire translation)

Desmond & Moore:  Darwin This is the biography, very thorough and very long.  (An excellent translator, but he still found work for me.)

Dillard, Annie: Writing Life (Checked the entire translation. the author was kind enough to let us switch chapter 1 and 2 for Japanese want something concrete first.)  Another publisher already had her best book, Tinker Creek (which I recommend to all who want to see a modern nature essay at its best)

Eiseley, Loren: Darwin and Mr. X, Night Country (for which I wrote an afterword for the Japanese edition), The Star Thrower (Donne-loving Eiseley can be ambiguous for a translator, so I really had to work on rewriting as well as checking his books!)

Fontenelle: Entretiens sur la Pluralite des Mondes (Plurality of Worlds). A French Classic (I confess I discovered it from English and my role was only that of convincing the publisher to do the first Japanese translation).

Steven J. Gould:  Ontogeny and Phylogeny (No easy task checking this huge book!), Time’s Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle.  (I also helped one of his translators working for another publisher.  If only he had not up and died on me, I’ll bet RISE, YE SEA SLUGS! would have tickled his fancy and made his column! Yes, I confess that one reason I mourn his passing is selfish.)

Gonzales-Crussi:  The Five Senses.   Like Primo Levi, a cultured essayist with a scientific background.  He deserves to be much better known  (The translator did not leave me much to do).

Grinspoon & Bakalar:  Psychodelics Reconsidered.  If a Nobel prize were given for non-fiction, the advancement of scientific thinking and sanity found in books like this and Marijuana Reconsidered (a book I could not convince my publisher to do) would deserve a nomination. (The book had bad luck with translators and I put in hundreds of hours checking . . . I hope it is out by now!)

Hansen, Chadwick: Witchcraft at Salem.  It turns out that Cotton Mathers is a hero who deserves our admiration for what he did to prevent the witch trials from being worse and the author, likewise, for the rehabilitation of a good soul. (I had fun correcting the translation, especially the man with the hole in his yard . . .)

For the rest of the sampling of books I served please go to the  books served link.



Call this a "thought experience" or a fantasy.  Here, the author imagines what it might be like making kimchi with the cabbage still growing.  I am inserting garlic and hot red pepper between the leaves.   This type of large oblong cabbages grow in the winter so I am wearing ear-muffs.  As the cabbage was not in my garden, I was not able to try the experiment.

The (c), like many things,  does not work in Frontpage. 

The man with a crab carapace in the background picture comes from Morse's 19c Japan Day By Day.  He noted that Japanese could be eccentric without risk of encountering the violence they would in the United States. In the 20c, Liza Dalby informs me her father wore a horseshoe crab into shops on Cape Cod and was none the worse for it.  Welcome news about the country, is it not?