Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

06 November 2007

Kyoto Poems

Perhaps the best advice you can give most poets is to not quit the day job. Despite the fact that I once wrote a poem called "If Poets Learned Assertive English," the same advice applies in my case. You will be able to judge for yourself shortly.

I was in Japan again late in October. I was there for a seminar at Doshisha University that celebrated the University of Hawaii Centennial, and Doshisha's long relationship with UH. Doshisha also gave UH System President David McClain an Honorary Doctorate.

It was my first time to hear presentations by Professors Yoshida and Okita and Asato in Japanese. I wish that my Japanese was better, so that I could have understood more.

One of my colleagues also gave a paper, so I was a guest of a guest at this HAWAII WEEK celebration. It was good to be in Kyoto. I regret that I did not have time to see many Kyoto friends, but I had some brief quality time with family and Doshisha colleagues before returning.

The trip also revived my poetry muse. My muse is usually hiding after long days of responding to e-mails, bureaucratic memos, and grading papers... but I was happy it made a brief return. I should not be surprised since Japan and Japanese poetry inspired much of my own love of poetry (from Basho to Sakaki Nanao).

Well, I should get back to those e-mails and memos, so here are the two poems I wrote. I promise not to quit the day job.

Hikari 337

I: Conductor

In the uniform
With the Sakura of modernity
On one shoulder
She bows
And punches tickets
As the Hikari
Slices down the coast
As if dividing urban sprawl
Into cities
Called Japan.

II: Counting Stops
I count the stops
To Kyoto
And dream
Of getting off
Somewhere off the tracks
Like a pottery town
Tradition and creativity
Shigaraki or Imbe
Wanting to appreciate
Not just the mass passion
That creaked the Shinkansen
But the individual
Who makes a rice bowl

--- Japan. October 2007.

At the College Guest House

Early morning sounds
Of the city
Wake me up
From jetlagged dreams

I was recalling the beauty
Of moss on a trail
By raking
(Sounds and smells of autumn)
and my muse suddenly recovers from years of slumber.

And I understand what inspired Snyder and Corman
Kyoto poets

Helping us to transcend modernity

And then
My mind
The waterfall of dreamy words
And realize
The morning sound
A leaf blower.

--- Doshisha-Amherst Guest House, Kyoto, “Hawaii Week,” October 2007.

I have more Kyoto Photos online. It is an amazing city for photographers. It is such an amazing place of beautiful temples that you really can almost shoot anywhere. I took GB of photos, especially at the Jidai Matsuri, which happened to start only a few blocks from the place I was staying at.

3 Comment(s):

  • Nice poems! I like the calm and peaceful imagery you've created. Kyoto looks like a beautiful place. That's great that your muse was "awakened" during your short visit. :)

    Belated congratulations on your new position as LIS Chair! I can imagine you have loads of work to do, but I'm sure it's very personally rewarding as well. It's nice to indulge yourself with poetry when you want to unwind. Best to you... Take care!

    By Blogger Marie, at Tuesday, November 06, 2007 5:07:00 AM  

  • As I am ruminating on something like a concept of "non-modern" out of some lines from Ashis Nandy, your verses make a perfect match :-)
    Please, be more frequent.

    By Blogger MRG, at Tuesday, November 06, 2007 10:26:00 AM  

  • Thanks Marie. Yes, the muse does need a jolt every once in a while. Web 2.0 and e-mails don't invite poesy that often. Kyoto is an amazing place. I'd love to live there for a few months someday. There are thousands of temples to explore, and so much history and places to experience.
    I hope Museum Studies at Harvard is going well. I haven't had time to read your blog in a while.

    Merci Michel. Je doit lire Nandy. Thanks for the encouragement to "Please, be more frequent." I can see that as a fine title for a book of poems.

    By Blogger Dr. Drew, at Wednesday, November 07, 2007 12:34:00 AM  

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