Thursday, March 17, 2011

{(-)}For Japan{(-)}Part Two{(-)}

Be Still My Soul - Kosuke Mine Quartet

Drizzling Rain - Masabumi Kikuchi
Sun In The East - Masayuki Takayanagi & New Direction For The Arts

In the same spirit as Part One, my focus on the rich artistic contributions of Japan are intended to draw our attention toward their present needs and to cause us to ask the question, "What can I/we do?" In answer to this question, any comments or suggestions are very encouraged. Beyond this, I hope that you enjoy the content.

I first latched on to Gary Snyder when I started getting serious about poetry - about a decade ago I guess. He's a very interesting man & much more than just a poet. He's accomplished a great deal in his 80+ years. If his work inspires you I would recommend reading up on him a bit. He lived in Japan from 1956 to 1964 I believe, studying Zen Buddhism & poetry. My original intention was to use his poetry exclusively, but after reading thru some of his translations of Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese poet, science teacher & social activist (1896-1933), I felt compelled to use several of his poems. I'm gonna start out with one from Gary & follow up with three from Kenji:


Work To Do Toward Town

Venus glows in the east,
----------mars hangs in the twins.
Frost on the logs and bare ground
---------free of house or tree.
Kites come down from the mountains
And glide quavering over the rooftops;
---------frost melts in the sun.
A low haze hangs on the houses
-------firewood smoke and mist--
Slanting far to the Kamo river
---------and the distant Uji hills.
Farmwomen lead down carts
---------loaded with long white radish;
I pack my bike with books--
---------all roads descend toward town.

--Gary Snyder


Cloud Semaphore

Ah, it's great! clear--clean--
wind blowing
farm tools twinkling
vague mountains
all in a dream where there's no time

-----when cloud semaphores
-----were already hung
-----in the stark blue east

the vague mountains...
---wild geese will come
-------down to the four
-----------cedars tonight!

--Kenji Miyazawa (Translated by Gary Snyder)


A Break

Up in that gaudy spaces
upper section a buttercup is blooming
----------(high-class buttercup it is but
----------rather than butter, from sulphur and honey)
below that, wild parsley and clover
and a dragonfly of worked tinplate.
rain crackles,
-----oriole crys in the
-----silverberry tree...
stretch out on the grass,
there's white and black both in the clouds;
it all goes shining, seething up.
fling off my hat it's the sooty cap of a mushroom
roll over and tilt my head back
------------------over the edge of the dike.
yawn; shiny demons come out of space.
---this hay's soft, it's a first-rate bed.

clouds all picked to bits,
the blue becomes eyes in a huge net, an
underlying glimmering steel plate

------------oriole without break--

--Kenji Miyazawa (Translated by Gary Snyder)


Distant Labor

Beyond the pampas-grass flowers
---------and the dark grove
a new sort of wind is blowing
--through dazzling wrinkly cloud fretwork
---------------and spring sun
with a shiver of strange odors.

And from the hill behind the empty creek
and the barely rising black smoke
of the tileworks
a big cheerful racket.

--listening in the farmers fields
it seems pleasant enough work all right
but every night Chuichi
comes home from there exhausted
----------------------and bad-tempered.

--Kenji Miyazawa (Translated by Gary Snyder)



  1. This is lovely. The images it brings to my mind's eye are vivid and rich. I'd like to read more. Is there a collection of Kenji's works?

  2. That was me, by the way Dug...


  3. Hi Meghan,

    Yeah, I agree, really beautiful stuff. There are 18 of his poems translated in the back of one of my G. Snyder collections, and I hadn't truly read them up until now. As soon as I get permission from my wife, I intend to order this:
    Hope you guys are well. Thanks for looking.