WiK’s summer solstice poetry reading, in keeping with the year’s longest day, was an engaging event which brought high quality English-language poetry to one of Kyoto’s most traditional areas, the Gion geisha district. The occasion was given an auspicious start by a large and energetic anti-government demonstration which passed along Kawabata Street in front of The Gael Irish Pub. Inside were over twenty people, from as far afield as Kobe and Nara. One had even come from Australia, on a reporting mission to cover Japan’s publishing industry which will include reference to WiK.
A pleasing feature was the mix of people, with WiK members augmented by friends of the two poets. This allowed for some fruitful interaction and new contacts to be made. Afterwards a Japanese violinist and concertina player struck up solstice style Irish folk, with an improvising keyboard player joining in. The sound of poetry gave way to the sound of music.
The concept behind the event was the friendship of two WiK members, both of whom teach at universities in the area: Mark Richardson at Doshisha and Mark Scott at Nara Joshi Dai. It has resulted in a joint work entitled “Poems of Two Friends”, in reference to a book jointly authored in 1860 by (American poets/novelists) John Piatt and William Dean Howells. The disarmingly short preface, as Mark (Richardson) notes, is quite charming.
The two friends in question here are both men of distinction; one a distinguished scholar of Robert Frost, the other twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Their poetry was highbrow but peppered with humour and references to popular culture and contemporary events. The walls of The Gael must have been astounded, for the poetical rendering was far from the usual banter of the pub. Indeed, poetry had been banned altogether for some seven or eight years after the last such event ended in a fist-fight. Happily, yesterday’s event only ended in smiles all round.
(Those interested in copies of the poems presented at the event, which will shortly be published, should contact one of the Marks through the WiK address. Meanwhile, the two poets have kindly agreed to supply the poems below for the enjoyment of readers.)
Jesus’s Wife (Scott)
The disciples said to Jesus,
Your wife, your mother, your disciple—as you wish.
Mary’s worthy, Jesus said.
We get it.
And she lives with you, if anybody asks.
And she lives with us. We’re good with that too.
But she’s my disciple.
Whatever you say.
Five Years After Dodd-Frank (Richardson)
“Je suis Charlie.” ––George Clooney, at the Golden Globes
Here we are, half a decade later,
And carnage ensues. Makeshift
Memorials are so core to what we do.
I’m sorry, Chris, but you bleeped out.
There hasn’t been much torture polling;
Our madcap gondola’s still in the shallows.
Sociopaths get as real and un-foundational
As Cary Grant. But there’s no big data
To say we can’t evolve on this;
Evolving is also core to what we do.
Send a makeshift memo up the daisy chain
Until it moans in the Office of Legal Counsel.
Make no mistake; cut on the door-slams;
That’s editing 101. And as for how
You can be more impactful, well,
Excuse me while I throw up
Steve Kornacki’s hands. The system
Doesn’t not work; the system isn’t not
Broken in. A lawless branch exfoliates
In the skylounge––pro-growth forests
Of exotic spreads, risky giveaways,
Pissing-contests, and bail. Christ, I’m late
For donor class. I’m the boss here; you can get
Your Kalashnikovs out. Wretches hang
That grand jurymen may dine. I am Charlie,
Still squatting in the bush; I am Charlie
Company, humping it in the desert
And jay-hawking loosies,
Five years after Dodd-Frank.
Duration comes up constantly.
It isn’t discussed.
The heart doesn’t seem to be in it.
Zipless fuck, lesbian bed death, marriage, jackrabbits:
Sex can too be boring.
I don’t think there have been any good studies.
But it’s a great empirical question.
And I can swallow that pill.
A stable relationship.
I don’t think there have been any.
None of the practitioners have come across one.
I don’t know about other desire drug trials,
But when I say “Show me a stability,”
You pick up a rock from Ecuador
And say it holds lots of energy.
This is not how I see myself.
Everyone raises a mix of tears.
In the long term all partners fail.
The debate goes on.
I want to settle the question.
Logic teaches me to feel.
We are also taught by rule.
To prove it, you get the genital blood to flow at a baseline state.
Strangers make it jump. I infer.
Inference is getting strange.
Here, smell my tee-shirt. Take that home with you.
Unnerving account of
Charles Portis has an excellent nose
With gooseberry aftershocks.
A must smell. Riveting, un-
Prose. Nothing more
Need ever be done
The Tragic Era (Richardson)
Untorn by ambition, taking pleasure
Alike in rod, gun, and horse,
Mine was a happy life before the war.
This bad feeling behind my eyes, where did it come from?
There, in the middle of the stairs,
Going up to the third floor from the second,
Look: a room in an apartment, burning.
Blood drains from the body,
And when you return, all is nothing;
All is already was, and panic.
I slept out with the pigeons that night,
Riding the edge of the wheel-glass.
And when I woke, amazed, I moved
As in some guise of snow-country––
As in some memory of watching Twin Peaks––
Cooking sweet purple rice and mung beans.
Trees grew into a paper map of the village,
A strangely benevolent oligarchy
Where the slaves are prim and content,
And white-gloved trains hit all their marks.
Strawberry-patterned guardian angel of the year,
Do you not shop? Please, by all means,
Let’s go to the show. By season’s end
It’ll all be a heap of leaves anyhow,
Reminiscent campfires of men in faded grey.
I laugh at this lonely New Year’s Eve,
Tilting cups of sake, swollen thick
As a 500-yen coin. I look outside:
The temple of rain is beautiful, a piece of memory,
An excuse not to work, mung beans lovely as jade.
The temple of rain is beautiful,
Its umbrella-stand full of boots.