japonisme: 2/12/12 - 2/19/12

14 February 2012

the Great Road to cheap instant Enlightenment


As long as you've got inherited provisions stored in your cellar,
go ahead and look hungry,
play at being poor to be chic.
When you tire of the Parthenon and Notre-Dame,

fine, go on to lanterns, Mount Fuji,
Hiroshige, Harunobu, Basho, Buson,
throw in Taiga, back to Sesshu,
praise the blank paper.

Pick, as you please,
tanka or haikai.
But I,
who know the thing about your cellar,
won't join your playing at being chic.
You may tap me on the shoulder,
but I won't feel good.

With your wooly hands
you may tug at me
and try to seat me on the Great Road to cheap instant Enlightenment,
but I'll have to excuse myself.

You see, like those fellows in the Kojiki,
I just like to shuffle about in the sun;
to tell you the truth,
— Japon, Japon, Japon, Japon, Japon —
ah, you're too noisy.

Takamura Kotaro (1883–1956)

tr. Hiroaki Sato

takamura kotaro lived through the precise time that this blog covers -- the arrival of westerners, the modernization of japan and the japanization of the west. though from japan, he studied in paris and other places, and was inspired by the art he saw there; in the west's reinterpretation of japanese style he was able to see new ways to write, and to sculpt. he is considered the earliest japanese poet to abandon himself to free verse, carrying home with him as a souvenir an ancient japanese poetry form that had evolved into something new.

he was uncomfortable with the swift westernization of his own country, and yet it's clear he also was as enriched by the swirling cross-cultural currents as was the west.

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12 February 2012

dammed self!

what of identity, then?
is it a fixed thing, or fluid?
self, no self, shifting self?

i dilute, like water-color
drop of paint assuaged by water.
but how do i know, then, it's me?

one simple thing: my mouse
goes out, and i am suddenly
without connection, without hands.

my every thought is dammed,
my constant curiosity is still
plugged in yet impotent.

will i disappear? or
spend some time remembering
i will come back, i'm already there.

when connections are severed,
if you feel selfless you are
looking in the wrong direction.


ikite iru bakari zo ware to heshi [no] hana

just being alive
and the poppy


tr. David G. Lanoue

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