Sunday, July 31, 2005

Toward Bouldering

My second attempt at climbing the gym wall. It's okay as long as I go straight up, but when there is an overhang, even a slight one (maybe 110 degrees?) it's impossibly difficult for my untrained body! But it's fun. Maybe next year I'll be bouldering in Boulder, Colorado. Who knows?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rangitoto Island

It's only 20 minutes away on ferry from Devonport and it's a world apart! A dormant volcano with a beautiful silhouette, its coast is made of rugged lava, then as you go up higher the flora drastically changes. At the top you get a breathtaking view 360 degrees around.

It's an hour's walk to the summit, no sweat. What a wonderful hike it was.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Wild Seagulls

This morning when I was walking I saw three seagulls on the road, making menacing noises one to the other and seemingly in dispute. I thought to myself "Is this the mating season?" but couldn't tell which ones were males and which the female. I kept looking, and one of them suddenly looked at me and came flying low straightly toward me with its beaks open and making that menacing sound---to attack me! I swung my arm and it abruptly turned away, but I was rather shocked to see a seagull taking such an action toward a human. Hey, this is not Tokyo and you are not a crow, I said.

Later in the afternoon in the sky there were more seagulls flying, making THAT sound, squeaking, menacing. It looked like a battle, or simplysort of display, showing off, I don't know. But the seagulls looked so dangerous. And the light was bright and the blue of the sky was suddenly profound and looked as if we were already in Spring.

I will remember today as the first day of (possible) spring.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

No More Only Poem

This tells about the anxiety we all had to go through when we began writing:

Éclats du vent: chacun rêve, enfant, du Seul Poème. Être poète, le devenir, c'est peut-être épuiser ce rêve, l'avoir renié. C'est assurer un manque éternel, celui de la connaissance. Pour quoi le poète, cet inconnu, est en effet par son poème le connu dans sa totalité, son allure mêmes.

Édouard Glissant, Soleil de la conscience, 1956, p. 41.

Te wiki o te reo Maori

This is the Maori language week! Check out the website:

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Paul Ricoeur

Today at the book store I casually bought a copy of The Conflict of Interpretations. I don't know why, because I don't even need it any time soon. Then later, I learned that Ricoeur had died this past May. I didn't even know it!

His contributions to the theory of narrative is one thing I'll have to study seriously, in relation to my NARRATOLOGY AS PEDAGOGY project. Now let him sleep. The books remain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Maori Phrase Book (1)

1. Nau mai, haere mai. (Welcome, come here.)

2. Ko Erana ahau. (I am Erana.)

3. Ko Mereana koe. (You are Mereana.)

4. Ko Timoti ia. (He is Timoti.)

5. Ko Hine ia. (She is Hine.)

Remember the set of ahau-koe-ia. Then the triangle of toku-tou-tona. My, your, his/her, respectively.

6. Ko Erana toku ingoa. (My name is Erana.)

7. Ko Mereana tou ingoa. (Your name is Mereana.)

8. Ko Timoti tona ingoa. (His name is Timoti.)

9. Ko Hine tona ingoa. (Her name is Hine.)

Some key questions.

10. No hea koe? (Where are you from?)

11. No Tamaki Makaurau ahau. (I'm from Auckland.)

12. Ko wai tou ingoa? (Who is your name?)

13. Ko Awhina Rawiri toku ingoa. (Awhina Rawiri is my name.)

Now some greetings.

14. Kia ora! (Hi!)

15. Kia ora! (Thank you.)

16. Kia ora!!! (Awesome.)

17. Tena koe! (Hello: to one person.)

18. Tena korua! (Hello: to two people.)

19. Tena koutou! (Hello: to three or more people.)

20. Tena koutou katoa! (Hello y'all!)

21. Haere ra! (Goodbye: to person leaving.)

22. E noho ra! (Goodbye: to person staying.)

23. Hei konei ra! (Goodbye: said by either.)

24. Ka kite! (See ya!)

25. Ka kite ano! (See you again.)

26. Ka kite ano i a koe! (See you again.)

27. Ata marie! (Good morning.)

28. Po marie! (Good night.)

29. Kia pai too ra! (Have a good day.)

Asking about conditions.

30. Kei te pehea koe? (How are you?)

31. Kei te pehea korua? (How are you two?)

32. Kei te pehea koutou? (How are you more than two?)

33. E pehea ana koe? (How are you?)

34. E pehea ana korua? (How are you two?)

35. E pehea ana koutou? (How are you more than two?)

36. Kei te pehea koe? --- Kei te pai ahau. (I am fine.)

37. Kei te pehea korua? ---Kei te pai maua. (We two are fine.)

38. Kei te pehea koutou? ---Kei te pai matou. (We more than two are fine.)

39. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te ngenge ahau. (I am sleepy.)

40. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te riri ahau. (I am angry.)

41. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te koa ahau. (I am happy.)

42. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te pouri ahau. ( I am sad.)

43. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te wera ahau. (I am hot.)

44. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiamoe ahau. (I am tired.)

45. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te mauiui ahau. (I am sick.)

46. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te makariri ahau. (I am cold.)

47. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hoha ahau. (I am bored.)

48. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiakai ahau. (I am hungry.)

49. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiainu ahau. (I am thirsty.)

50. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te matemoe ahau. (I am exhausted.)

51. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te matekai ahau. (I am starving.)

52. Kei te pehea koe? ---Tino pai ahau! (Very good.)

53. Kei te pehea koe? ---Ka nui te pai ahau! (Really good.)

54. Kei te pehea koe? ---Taua ahua ano ahau! (As per usual.)

55. Ahua pai. (Sort of okay.)

55. Ahua ngenge. (Sort of tired.)

56. Ko wai tou whaea? (Who is your mother?)

57. Ko wai tou matua? (Who is your father?)

58. Ko wai tou kuia? (Who is your grandmother?)

59. Ko wai tou koro? (Who is your grandfether?)


You know these words?
Those who take their vacances in July and August, respectively.
I want to be a Septembrien then!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ni rhetorique, ni syntaxe

And this truly extraordinary aspects of Eluard that Jean points out correctly:

Rien ne lui est plus étranger que la rhétorique, sous quelque aspect que ce soit. Rien ne lui est plus étranger même que la syntaxe, dans la mesure où la pure continuité des messages visuels et sonores s'y substitue à tout arrangement constructif de la phrase. (97)

No rhetoric, no syntax. And he continues to say:

La forme qu'elle affecte le plus volontiers est celle du simple énoncé. Elle nomme, elle dit, elle désigne. (ibid.)

Wow. How true!

Facilite, evidence

Another great quote from Eluard by Raymond Jean (96):

Les poèmes ont toujours de grandes marges blanches, de grandes marges de silence où la mémoire ardente se consume pour recréer un délire sans passé.

The reader's memory plays a great part in interpreting a poem, naturally. And the interpretation (as an addendum to the text of the poem itself) is a pastless, therefore unjustifiable, delirium. In this sense a poem is a mirror of the reader's mind, conscious and unconscious. What plays in the margin is the experience, and it presents itself as an unrepeatable, unique occurence.

What does a panophobe fear?

The answer is: everything.

I boght the local beer Tui (named after a species of NZ bird) and on each crown cap there is a little quiz. E.g.:

What does a panophobe fear?
A. Everything.

Where are the 2006 Olympics to be held?
A. Turin.

I find this fascinating. In the US there was a brand of beer called Red Dog that did the exactly same thing. These are trivia, for sure, but at the same time a kind of poetry of tous les jours. I think about the person who write this.

Are you afraid of everything? Poor pal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

And Her Name Is

Je t'appellerai Visuelle
Et multiplierai ton image.

---Paul Eluard

Raymond Jean writes: "C'est que, pour Eluard, Picasso est l'introducteur à la réalité par excellence." (55) Here is a great quote from Eluard (what he writes about Picasso):

Homme, femme, statue, table, guitare, redeviennent des hommes, des femmes, des statues, des tables, des guitares, plus familiers qu'auparavant, parce que compréhensible, sensibles, à l'esprit comme aux sens.

Eluard, the natural. It's a pity I didn't bring his two-volume Pleiades with me...

La vision chez Eluard

Monde des miroirs, monde des YEUX FERTILES, monde de la connaissance immédiate et de la nécessaire réciprocité. L'amour ne peut être que la reconnaissance du visible, parce que le visible est ce qui fonde la forme la plus directe, la plus riche et la plus accomplie de la communication.

Raymond Jean, ELUARD (Seuile, 1968), 51.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wilder's Statements

Thornton Wilder has an enviable bio. Born in Madison, Wisconsin (well, I don't particularly envy this), he grew up in Shanghai as the Consul-General's son. Then he lived in California, New Haven, Roma (where he studied Archeology). He has an M.A. in French lit from Princeton and taught some French and comp lit at Chicago. Then he worked as an intelligence officer of the US Air Force in North Africa and Italy. (By then he was a succesful writer, of course.) China, Romania, and Africa. Ezra Pound would have envied his life course.

Wilder was very unsatisfied by his contemporary theater. Here is what he wrote in the preface to OUR TOWN AND OTHER PLAYS (Penguin):

I believed every word of ULYSSES and of Proust and of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, as I did of hundreds of plays when I read them. It was on the stage that imaginative narration became false. (...) I found the word for it: it aimed to be SOOTHING. The tragic had no heat; the comic had no bite; the social criticism failed to indict us with responsibility. (8)

And his belief in the concinuity of literary history (as history of creation):

The play [THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH] is deeply indebted to James Joyce's FINNEGANS WAKE. I should be very happy if, in the future, some author should feel similarly indebted to any work of mine. Literature has always more resembled a torch race than a furious dispute among heirs. (...) I am not an innovator but a rediscoverer of forgotten goods and I hope a remover of obtrusive bric-à-brac. (14)

I especially like the final sentence's "a rediscoverer of forgotten goods." This is the basic attitude of Poundian poetics, isn't it?

But then

Such a "No" at this kind of occasion means only the wish that no such brutality should enter one's life-space. It's sheer selfishness, the same kind that makes us blind to what is happening elsewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


My trip to Tonga was fantastic and hilarious, but oh, London. On 11 September 2001 I was in London. In the following days people feared, and it was felt riding on a tube. That fear has now, after almost four years, materialized itself. Do not use death as an option. To live and let live is the only basis for our world. Do not kill. Do not.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And My Joy Today Is

And my joy today is
that slice of blue
gradually revealed by the splitting,
dark clouds of winter.
The foothills of Sandia are now tinged red
as if by blood
by the lowering rays of the sun.
My visual field is blocked randomly
by the drops of crystallized water
their ambiguous purity.
A high-school friend of mine
is working particle physics there at the Institute.
What can his research be?
Destruction of the world, or the fifth sun?
‘Sandia’ means watermelon in Spanish.
In this dry, freezing north
wind on the New Mexico plateaus
looking at the mountain’s luminous, rugged surface
I imagine watermelon’s sweet, red pulp
and the summer when dogs sleep, languished
in rocky shades
and I smile.
My joy today is this blue sky of winter.
However hard I try, I cannot recall
how death smelled in that summer, and
my grandmother’s voice.

In-class Readings

We also read a lot in class. Some of the materials that Jen has chosen include poems such as Marianne Moore's "The Fish" and Elizabeth Bishop's "The Moose", or Garcia Lorca's famous, superb essay on duende. Each require more detailed commentary which I'll attempt in the future.

Finally, I'll post my work for Day 4 above.


Then we proceeded to write on an item--an abstract one--from the list, personifying it. Our time being limited (15 minutes rule here) I started in no time without a set direction, and failed to 'personify' it. But I saw some other possibilities. What I chose was "soundlessness".


Is there a difference between silence and soundlessness?

There is a big old fir tree in Siberia. After four-hundred years of tranquil existence, now it's falling down under the weight of acid snow. The area is remote, at least a couple of hundred kilometers in any direction from a human settlement. What sound do you think you hear? The answer is: no sound, as there is no human ear nearby to hear the tree fall.

One summer in the 1970s I found a swallow's nest under the roof of a neighboring store. There were young swallows inside, old enough to eat live worms whole, but not yet beginning to learn flight. When I approached, they all fell voiceless, an extreme silence. I felt sorry for them. Silence is a state of fear.

One winter day in the 1990s I was standing on the beach in Tofino, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It's the town that you first see after a trans-Pacific flight Tokyo-Seattle. Ten-meter waves were rolling in from the northern Pacific, roaring, and it was dreadfully cold. Drenched by the splashes of the waves, I was exhilarated. I couldn't see far, I could hear nothing. In this resounding, monstrous breaking waves and typhoon-like wind, what I experienced was soundlessness.

Soundlessness is an altered state of consciousness.


Then Jen asked us to make a list of obsessions. I am not sure if one can bring one's obsessions into consciousness. But there are some recurrent motifs that do appear in what I write, especially when I'm writing off the top of my head. Here is a temporary list:

grand parents
bilingual areas, bilingual people
the US Southwest
islands (esp. Hawaii)
people in transition
tranquility, soundlessness
fear of death
contingency of existence
humidity / temperature
futile efforts
sacred mountains
sun, sunshine, shadows
rain, clouds
the passing of clouds
the sense of isolation

The Poetry Shed: Day 4

Warming up. I started from the word PAGANISTICS and began writing an acrostic of a sort. This is something I did in TAXI!, the webzine that Keisuke Dan and I co-published in 1997-98. The problem with spontaneous writing is it so often becomes repetitious. You are wading in the shallow pool of predictibility. Anyway, it went as something like this:

Probably the most difficult task in one's life is "to be pagan," leaving behind all the beliefs that as a child you were taught to believe.

Acknowledging all the gift that the world has given to you, but not by way of the social body you were born into.

Greek philosophy knew nothing about the brutal off-springs it had centuries later, who devastated the globe beyond the point of no-return.

Asymmetrical construction of sound and meaning is the source of momentum in any linguistic creation.

Neither/or---nobody, or the one who names oneself "nobody."

Island-oriented beings are sure to fail in the business world.

Spring is formed after some kind of fern, so I am told.

The tram is no longer in use as a means of urban transportation here; a shame.

Illocutionary discouragement requires redemption.

Crucify your credo to save your creativity.

Surprise your sense by sublimating your hesitation.

A series of automated aphorisms.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Border Schoolers

From Palomas to Columbus
we take a yellow schoolbus.
Every morning on the border, María-José’s grandpa
stands around, chatting with his American cousin.
Good morning, don Genaro!
Good morning, don Alejandro!
The two old men wave back, their faces full of smile.
Our teacher is Miss Judy
farmer’s daughter from Split Arrow, Oklahoma.
In the classroom we are asked to speak English.
Even if we can’t, we read, write, and speak English.
Our play at school is double-dutch, day in, day out
(Alicia in, Alicia out, Ma-Jo in, Ma-jo out);
my younger brother is only interested in baseball,
he dreams of one day becoming a Cuban.
When classes are over, we (I and Juanita) teach
Miss Judy to sing and talk in Spanish.
We sing of México.
At three, we ride the yellow bus again.
¡Buena tarde, maestra!
¡Buena tarde, niñas!
On the way home south to Palomas
everybody’s in a dream.
With his forehead resting against the window
mi hermanito is now a joyful Cubano
standing high on Wrigley Field.

And the Story Behind It

When I was in grade school, maybe when I was 8 or 9, one day I was hurrying home all by myself. I saw ahead a girl, a year or two older than me, walking slowly, alone. She was a very quiet girl who didn't have a friend. Because of a babyhood disease, one of her legs was paralysed. She was extremely introvert and I had never heard her utter a word. I was running as fast as I could to catch up with my brother and others to play baseball. I didn't even pay attention to her and I passed her running, when she said in a loud voice, Give them to me. I stopped, shocked. It was the first time I heard her talk. The girl repeated, almost plaintively, Give the legs to me. Suddenly scared to death, I cried out aloud incomprehensible UGHHHHH like a scared dog barking at a scary stranger. I ran away, not once looking back. The sun was setting. I didn't turn around but the image of the silhouetted girl's shadow with a blank, black face, stayed with me. That silhoette, now I know, is my sense of guilt.

What I Remember

Then we wrote, again in 15 minutes' time, about an experience with a defined setting. No stopping, no revising, again. But this time we didn't write it in a linear fashion, rather scattering each word all over the page, discontinuously.

When we finished, we looked at lines. The lines don't form a story, yet something comes through. It's a personal cut-up, sort of. My example goes like this:

Her her that frail frightened
When was now by always
Introvert sad all so girl
Had instantly I stunned eyes
Turned could did couldn't maybe remember
Without back seen can
Her meaningless was then
Girl that she so walking silhouetted
Like a me can play with there scare about
Was barking myself still said so
The trying alone
Strange her all
Dog hurrying sun utter that why
Face from passed
Back word menace in shadow babyhood
Speaks and running when crying
Was past older I give together
Angry words that school
Looked saw and legs disease
Home to same give stopped years
Give against feel hurrying
Girl than them setting I remember
With repeated sun those from
Voice of very some because I ran was
Blankly audibly away UGHHHHHHHH
Girl's her expression

The Poetry Shed: Day 3

We began again by 10-minute warming up. Keep going, don't stop, don't revise. I began from the phrase "the naked eye," which is the title of a very ambitious novel by Yoko Tawada.

What exactly is the naked eye?
As you go through all the different places--
cities, forests, beaches, deserts, mountains, farming villages--
the first thing you are exposed to at each place is its light.

The light that illuminates each place.
I have always been struck by the fact
that all the lights on this planet originated, in one way or the other,
from the sun--our ultimate light provider!

What accompanies the light is the air
that envelops your whole being,
or your whole being-there
at this particular moment
and at this particular spot.

And the air as a local masse moves and we
call it wind. The light comes to you with the wind.
The light comes to you, as if, on the wind.

Your eye is the receptor of light, and at the same time
it is exposed to the wind
that makes its surface dry
that it feels threatened
like a little animal
of uncertain kind.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Border Postman

From Sasabe to Sasabe
Jorge runs his bicycle.
He is a postman who
carries brief letters written in Spanish
for those people who read only Spanish
in the desert with burning bush
among the huge cacti that look like
candelabras at the Vatican.
At the time when the shadows are the shortest
in a cantina by the town plaza
drinking lukewarm Tecates
Jorge and I talked.
He is a guero, a blond Mexican
whose father was a mine engineer from Iceland
who strayed into Sonora.
Not finding ores or bending waters
the man turned a public writer
and wrote letters for others, in a handwriting
more precise than the contour of an iceberg
for the correspondences from
Méxicanos to Mexicans.
Jorge, Jorgito, runs his bicycle,
with a few letters in his oversized mailbag.
Sometimes he stops to watch
jackrabbits, rattlesnakes,
far thunder clouds,
soaring eagles,
and occasional Salvadoleñas
lying face down in the desert, dead.
When he stops his bicycle on the road
Jorge never leaves its saddle.

The "object" poem

We then had a little "show & tell" session. Each of us brought an intriguing object and presented it to others. Then we wrote about it (or them) in 15 minutes. Here is mine:


A hat is left behind, a song lingers in the air
but the man is gone.
Where to? Nobody knows.

See this irregular piece of concrete?
It used to be a wall.
If it had ears, it must have heard
people shot in the noman's land.

Stars are never reachable,
as "each one is a setting sun" (Wilco).
But this star can hide in your hands
and it shines, secretly, with the scent of far salt.

Oh, this kidney is so thin!
The kidney can shape, scrape
the kidney bends to give life
and you're the one to choose its contour.

Note: the objects are an old hat, a chip off the Berlin Wall, a dried starfish, and a piece of metal called "kidney" and used in ceramic sculpture.

The Poetry Shed: Day 2

Today again we began by a ten-minute warming-up. Write on anything off the top of your head. Here is my piece.

China is Haina in Maori
Japan is Hapana
anywhere you go in this world
Hapana is considered a part of Haina

Everywhere I go in the world
the Chinese talk to me in Chinese
of an unknown variety
and I smile incomprehension
vaguely, blankly
they don't seem to care
they keep talking to me in Chinese

But then there are various Chinese
in one single Haina, and I can tell!

That restaurant downtown is run by the people
from Continental China (they use simplified characters)
this one by the ethnic Chinese from Malaysia (they have Laksa)
this one the Peruvian Chinese
the one on Dominion Rd by Vietnamese
and that Korean restaurant in Howick
is run by Korean people, of course, but they are
the ethnic Chinese from Northeastern China

See what I mean? Haina is never one
Haina is multiple, always has been
so probably it makes sense to
include Hapana in Haina

Call me Chinese, if you so wish
I don't care, I remain one of them!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Calvino on Pavese

Today I came across among the on-sale books (at the Uni bookshop) a fairly new book by Italo Calvino, HERMIT IN PARIS, and took it up and opened randomly to this page. I casually began reading and at once captivated by the almost electric current flowing through the following passage:

Of course no one in Italian literature followed the Pavese route. Neither in terms of language, nor in that way he had of extracting a poetic tension from a realistic, objective story, and not even in his despair, which initially seemed the element that was most likely to catch on. (Even internal suffering is something seasonal; who today wants to suffer?) Pavese has gone back to being 'the most isolated voice in Italian poetry', as the blurb read on an old edition of his LAVORARE STANCA, a blurb dictated, I think, by himself. (123)

I've got to read all of Pavese and Calvino in the original... But when shall I have time to do that? One day I'll spend a whole summer in San Remo, in that splendid b&b called SoleMare!

The "Body" Poem

My Body, My Cogito

Cogito ergo sum, says Descartes,
I think, therefore, I am.
I believed him.
Then one day I realized: I AM
Even when I don't think. I am. My body is.
My body is when the heart beats 60 times a minute,
My body is when the lung breethes every 5 seconds,
My body is when the eyelid blinks 60 times a minute,
My body is when the throat swallows every once in a while.
My body is when it awakes in the morning,
My body is when it falls asleep without realizing it,
My body is when it's hungry, thirsty, when it hurts.
All in all, my body precedes my thinking,
Therefore I don't agree,
My old René, with you anymore.

The "Meal" Poem


Cilantro, they called it.
It's smell is pungent, sweet yet bitter,
But tacos is nothing without it,
It's strong greenish smell.
Big fat Maria, her hospitable recipe
From the desert of Sonora,
Made Alejandro and me happy
In a very modest way.
We drank Corona, the Mexican beer,
One bottle each, nada más.
Outside the ground smelled of
The approaching desert rain.
Take this carne de cabeza
Take some green chile (its luminous colour)
Then sprinkle a lot of cilantro
Wrap them up with a tortilla de fariña.
There was no reason for me to be there.
But Maria's tacos were out of this world,
Near Nogales, Sonora,
Near the border
That divides
Cilantro and coriander.

Memorable Speech

I have hard time remembering things
I forget people's faces, names, the colours of their sweaters
I have hard time remembering things
Promises, directions, even revelations.

Then my grandfather, who's been dead for thirty-seven years,
Appeared one night (was it a dream?) to give me a tip.

"In antiquity, in Greece or China,
As soon as people invented writing, they began writing poetry."
"Why, grandpa?" I asked, suddenly a boy of ten.
"Because they wanted to remember."

Re-member. Gathering of all my forgotten parts,
Bodily or emotional, pieces of my past
To build a machine that works
To keep me from forgetting as well as to allow
My friends to remember something
That they never even lived.

Definitions of Poetry

My own definitions of poetry when asked in class:

1. Poetry is a series of words and phrases arranged with the intention of attaining aesthetic and mnemotechnic effects; in other words, the arrangement needs to be "beautiful" (whatever it may mean) and memorable.

2. Poetry is a set of words charged with condensed possibilities of meaning beyond a simple, linear communication.

Then Jen gave us some examples given by poets of which I quote the following:

Poetry is---

"memorable speech" (Auden) [Did I know this from somewhere?]

"a machine made of words" (William Carlos Williams)

"an emotional machine made of words" (Phillip Larkin)

"the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits" (Carl Sandburg)

The Poetry Shed

Today began the week-long course of poetry writing, taught by Dr Jen Crawford. In four-hour's class, we did a lot! We began by reading aloud Rimbaud's Le bateau ivre in Samuel Beckett's translation. The choice of course delighted me. It was like a tribal chant of the opening ceremony. Then we improvised, each in 15 minutes' time, five short pieces (one being a definition) of 1. Whatever 2. The definition of poetry 3. On a definition of Poetry 4. Meal 5. Body. It was really a good mental exercise!

For 1. I wrote the following pre-poetry (still in a primitive state):

Swallows in July

Yesterday I saw swallows flying low, very close to the ground, near the bay.
Swallows in July is only natural in Tokyo
Where they come, each summer, to nest and raise their off-springs.
But in this hemisphere, when it is all wet, cold, and muddy, what do they seek?

Maybe they are looking for worms to fuel their long-haul flight to come
When summer comes. But where to? To the southern island?
Their seasonal migration is beyond my imagination.

When the noon sun hovers high in the north, I am disoriented, I lose my way.
Strange, am I being punished for having boasted from time to time
That I can find any destination without asking for directions?

This has happened before, my being disoriented. Twenty-one years ago, and I was twenty-five
Under the tropic of Capricorn, in the cidade monstro named after Paul.
I was astray, day after day, not knowing where to go, what to do.
I remember reading Montaigne then. He who insisted that we all
Live in passages. His worldly wisdom.

Did you see, Michel, from your tower of self-confinement
Swallows who fly, in their own passages from a season to another?
Did you know, Michel, where they are from
And what week of the year did they reach your tower?

Don't Worry, Books Are Unreadable Anyway (2002)

Here is what I wrote when I started a series of essays on books and reading in the Kyoto-based journal DiaTxt, edited by Hiroshi Yoshioka. The journal is now defunct; I post this only for record.

"Books are unreadable. Books are uncountable. Books are untameable. In reading one is defined and redefined, combined and recombined, unveiled, agitated, pulverized, multiplied, metamorphosed. Texts are boundless and they call out to each other, reading is endless and it calls for yet another, in your effort to understand, experience, and experiment with, the world. This is no ordinary book review. It deals with books old and new, famous and unknown, high and low, across languages and genres. Welcome to the world of wild, nomadic, omniphone reading by the author of Tropical Gossip."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Isabel Who Cheers Me Up

I don't know what Isabel Allende means to me. She constantly charges me with energy. It's surely her gift and the gift she shares with the world when the world itself is not a very hospitable place for anybody. It was one of the most fortunate coincidences of my life that I was asked to translate her memoir PAULA. The translation was published in 2002.

This from another of hermemoirs, MI PAIS INVENTADO (2003):

Espero que la existencia sea problemática y cuando no hay angustia o dolor por varios días, me preocupo, porque seguro significa que el cielo está preparándome una desgracia mayor. (117)

[I want life to be full of problems and when there is no worries nor pain for several days I am concerned, as it surely means that heaven is preparing for me a major disgrace.]

Such a sentence makes me smile and I begin to think nothing of my montón of worries!

Kafka's Birthday

In 1984 today I was in Recife, on the beach of Boa Viagem... Happy birthday, Franz.

Quotability goes hand in hand with the art of mini-story telling. Maybe short-ness is to my taste; to my nature of restlessness and impatience in just about everything. What about Kafka?

"Kafka read the Hasidic stories translated and reworked by Martin Buber, and treasured a pocket anthology from the Talmud." (Ritchie Robertson, Kagka: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford UP, 2004, 109)

Buber was born in 1878, only 5 years older than Kafka, so it must have been a work of the Martin of a very young age. I'd like to get hold of a copy.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Akiko Tobu's Photography

My friend Akiko Tobu's photography is now up at Nikon's site. Take a look!

Smilers' Passports

Here is a charming headline from The New Zealand Herald of June 30, 2005.

"Passport photo guideline wipes smile off Kiwi faces"

In other words, so many New Zealanders so far had smiling, grinning, or even laughing photographs on their passports?

That would be lovely.

Personality Disorder

In Britain a young man of 19 was arrested for killing his parents; father, 71 and mother, 60. It is reported that the boy was "a brilliant student with a rare psychological condition," and the name of his condition is: "narcissistic personality disorder," that made him "obsessed with fantasies of his own success and wealth."

Of course such a person is imaginable; we have seen in our lives any number of people with extravagant, grandiose fantasy about themselves. Watch "The Next American Idol," and there is a bunch of them. Go to a karaoke bar, and there are a dozen "cousins of Freddie Mercury."

But what's the point of diagnosing the condition as "personality disorder"? Is it a way for the medical science to intervene in the realm of criminal justice? Doesn't it suffice to say: he was heavily narcissistic and he was a murderer? Do they want to say: he killed BECAUSE he himself was suffering from a peronality disorder of a certain kind? Note how the "because" is baseless.

Islamic School

In Manukau, south of Auckland, there is the only Islamic school in the country named Al-Madinah. There girls had to cease attending school after year 8, and their curriculum had prayers and religious education. I don't have any objection against religious education, personally, but I also stand by the virtue of secular, general education, guaranteed through the secondary school by the government. Recently the government has decided to take over the school.

What interests me is the ethnic component of the school: 45 per cent of the students are Fijian Indians, 16 per cent Somali, and 14 per cent Indian. In Fiji, Moslems are minority. Was is one of the reasons they chose to immigrate to NZ?

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Kiwi Understatements

For many years the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation would not allow any superlatives in advertising so advertisers invented descriptions: soap powder washed whiter than white (because they weren't allowed to say whitest) and peas were fresher than fresh. This policy struck a big rock when an airline which had been proved by the aeronautical industry to be the world's largest was not allowed to say so on radio and television in New Zealand. So they pulled all their commercials saying 'We won't pay for advertising which does not allow a factual statement.'

Max Cryer, MORE CURIOUS QUESTIONS, Harper Collins, 2003, p.18.