As a writer, Janet Pocorobba has steeped herself in cultures and languages, including the lost art of psychoanalysis, in which she trained to become a lay analyst and has been an analysand for fifteen years. Her involvement with Japan goes back more than twenty years and includes two decades of performing Japanese arts on two continents. She plays shamisen, the three drums of the kabuki orchestra (ko-tsuzumi, o-tsuzumi, and shimedaiko), and Japanese dance. Her teachers have been disciples of ningen kokuho, Preservers of Important Intangible Culture Properties.
In the States Janet has lectured on Japanese music and taught shamisen individually and in lecture-demonstrations at BU and Brown University, where Roger Keyes, Freeman Foundation Professor of East Asian Studies, said "Janet Pocorobba is a master teacher. She brought the world of Japanese music to life for students who had never even seen a samisen, and reminded the rest of us why we are so passionate about Japanese art to begin with."
She has performed in concert halls, schools, museums, culture fairs, backyards, and in the home of the Consul-General of Japan in Boston. In 2004, she created an original score of Japanese music for Milwaukee Dance Theater's new play, "My Dear Othello," which "brought about a layer of poignancy and depth, creating an inner voice for the character Desdemona and the ill-fated tragedy that befell her." In 2009, she created and toured, "17 Views of a Shamisen," a spoken word and music performance relating the paradoxes and angst of cross-cultural living. Audiences called the show, "touching," "an engaging entry into another culture," and "a Japanese Alice's Restaurant!"
In Tokyo Janet was a features writer and editor at Tokyo Classified, now Metropolis, Tokyo's #1 English magazine. Her stories were often immersions: into food, books, plays, and a Soto Zen temple, where she meditated with monks and survived to write about it. Her reviews have been widely published in the U.S. and Japan, including Harvard Review, The Journal, Indiana Journal, Provincetown Arts, and others. Her interview with legendary writer on Japan Donald Richie for Kyoto Journal #44 is the longest interview ever recorded with the famous expatriate. Janet's essay and memoirs have appeared in The Rumpus, The Writer, [Nixes Mate Review], American Athenaeum, and as a visiting writer in the literary magazine Caribbean Writing Today. Her poetry has been selected yearly for Montpelier's Poem City Festival. In 2014, she created and recorded the radio show, "Being Human," on Goddard College Radio WGDR, which discussed psychoanalysis in everyday life. She runs "Conscious Creating" groups in Montpelier, Vermont for people wanting to work out their relationship to their creative arts.
Janet's degrees are the MFA in creative writing, MA linguistics, and MA psychoanalysis. Her first job as an ESL teacher over twenty years ago, at the University of Colorado-Boulder, yielded a published article in the TESOL Journal about resisting English-Only and using students' native languages in the classroom. Her teaching has included ESL at universities and learning centers in Japan and the States. She has taught creative writing at Simmons College and the Lesley Humanities Division, in which she has created both F2F and online curriculum in nonfiction and memoir. She was a mentor in the Lesley low-residency bachelor completion program, and is currently Associate Professor and nonfiction writing mentor in the Lesley low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Lesley, as serves as the program's Associate Director. She has presented on panels at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and the Boston Book Fair.
She has served as a nonfiction reader at Post Road magazine, board member of the Writers' Room of Boston, and on the Right-to-Write Committee of PEN-New England. She has been a Writing-in-the-Prisons mentor, as well as a co-coordinator for the PEN-in-the-prisons readings. In 2009-2010, she was managing editor for The Contact, magazine at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis.
Janet was the Bildner Scholar in the Lesley MFA program from 2004-2006, and was a Bread Loaf Writing Scholar in 2001. She is the recipient of artist residencies from Vermont Studio Center and Turkey Land Cove Foundation on Martha's Vineyard. In 2001 she was featured in Japan Cosmo as one of five distinctive foreign women studying Japanese traditional arts. She is one of few people in the world to master the Japanese shamisen. The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me is her first book.
In 2015, she bought a cabin in rural Vermont, where she lives and keeps a blog of rural life at www.onsodompond.wordpress.com. Her new project is about women, her local co-op, and community. She is trying to learn fiddle so she can immerse with the musicians around her new home.