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Haiku and Horror Movies with Daily News Writer Michael

Haiku and Horror Movies with Daily News Writer Michael

Have you read our previous feature on the Content Team? Its members are responsible for all of the great materials our students use in their lessons every day.

This time, we'll continue our look behind the scenes of Engoo by focusing on an individual member of the team. Allow us to introduce you to Michael Lambe, Daily News writer and haiku enthusiast! We'll learn about his background and work process, what he misses about living in Japan, and hear about a unique love story he was able to share with our readers.

Tell us about yourself.

I am originally from the UK, and I studied literature in college where I became interested in Japanese poetry. This led me to move to Japan where I lived for over 25 years before moving to Portugal at the end of last year. While I was in Japan, I learned to read Japanese and I have done some translation work in the past. A few years ago some friends and I published a book of translated poetry called Kyoto: A Literary Guide. I also spent six months in Geneva a couple of years ago translating patent documents. But if I am honest, I prefer writing Daily News articles to translating patent documents!

Interesting! So what was it about Japanese poetry that caught your attention?

I was interested in Modernist poetry and Japanese poetry had a big influence on that. There was a group of poets called the Imagists in particular who were influenced by haiku. I became interested in these tiny poems that could capture moments and experiences so succinctly and powerfully.

When did you join Engoo, and what's your role on the Content Team?

[I joined] at the end of last September. I write original Daily News articles, edit other people’s articles and adapt AP news articles. I tend to write a lot of articles related to Japan, because I can read Japanese and am familiar with Japanese culture and society.

Was it an easy transition from patent document translator to Daily News writer?

[It was] more of a relief! I think I'm happier when I'm writing. I also like the people I work with on this team. It's a really supportive group, and I get really useful and encouraging feedback from the editors, so I think it's making me a better writer. 

That's nice to hear. Tell us about your process for writing a Daily News article.

It depends on the article, but generally once I have a topic, I will do some research and see if I can find something original to say about it. By reading lots of sources you can often get an overall picture or see connections that no one else has written about. I don't do much planning; I just throw myself in the writing and let it take shape naturally.

I think that's a process that many creative workers can relate to. So what are the challenges of writing Daily News articles?

Well, the key challenge is getting the language level right for our readers while also trying to keep the writing entertaining. It can be challenging — but challenges are fun, and super-satisfying when you get it right.

Michael at São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Portugal

Michael at São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, Portugal

Agreed. What do you do in your free time?

I like walking, eating good food, reading horror stories, watching horror movies and I have been known to write the occasional haiku. I miss Japanese onsen.

What was it about Portugal that pulled you away from Japan?

A lot of things! My wife and I came here on our honeymoon seven years ago, and then visited again a couple of years after that. Both times we were really amazed at how beautiful the cities are in this country. And we also liked the atmosphere and the lifestyle. People are friendly here — in a very relaxed way. I think we were both getting itchy feet too. We want to explore a bit more of the world, experience other cultures — and learn a new language.

Sounds great! Do you think that experience of learning a new language has affected your work as a Daily News writer?

Maybe. I have also worked as a language teacher for many years — so I suppose I have an awareness of how to communicate things simply and clearly.

Do you have an article you've worked on that you're particularly happy with, or perhaps a topic you most enjoy writing about?

Actually, I did write one article about a Japanese descendent of the Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn (who is known as Koizumi Yakumo in Japan). She moved to Ireland after meeting an Irishman who works in the Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens in Waterford — so I interviewed her and her husband for the article. I was happy to tell such an unusual and romantic story.

Nice! That sounds like quite a unique story. Before we finish, do you have any advice to share with our students?

I am not the greatest language learner — it took me a long time to learn how to read Japanese. But I am very stubborn and persistent. So my advice is to keep at it, and not give up — if you do that, you will be surprised at what you can achieve!