Friday, April 1, 2011

NaPoWriMo: Day One

For the first year ever, I'd decided to take part in NaPoWriMo which is briefly, the poet's NaNoWriMo. Instead of trying to write a novel in a month, one writes a poem a day.

As such the poems will be rough around the edges. They are not my best work, though they do typify my tone and style. One of my favorite poets is Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese poet who live in the early part of last century in a part of Japan called Iwate, which was heavily damaged in the recent earthquake and tsunami.

I was thinking a lot about Kenji and how saddened he would be to see the people of his beloved Iwate suffering so. He was the oldest son of a moneylender during a time of famine and made his living as a teacher and geologist. Despite having plenty of money, his heart ached to see his students suffer; he couldn't bring himself to enjoy the trappings of his lifestyle. He chose to live simply.

Toshiko was his younger sister. She too wanted to be a teacher, but contracted tuberculosis. Her mother and brother nursed her dutifully but she sickened and died. Her death affected Kenji deeply. He mourned her openly at a time when women were valued less than men. She surfaced many times in his poems.

Before the days ends
you will be far away, my sister.
Outside, there's sleet and it's bright.
(Bring me some snow, Kenji)
From clouds the color of bismuth,
the sleet comes down....

Kenji endured a lot of personal tragedy in his brief life: the perennial misunderstanding of his father, the deaths of his sister and his wife, the distrust of the farmers who were the parents of his students. The latter would take a little more time to explain than I want to spare.

Mostly, this is a lot of talk for not that good of a poem.

The Gold at Sunset

Kenji, why don't you eat some food

God will never forgive you

and you will never see Toshiko in any heaven, Kenji
if you don't take my hand right now

let's go moon-seeing
let's go flower-watching

Kenji, don't you miss the croaking of the summer frogs
and the bridge of the milky way?

Kenji, come out into the gold at sunset
and whisper it into the sky
many, many times.

Suffering's lesson is this.

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