Sunday, 12 July 2015
Lizard Telepathy Fox Telepathy - Yoshinori Henguchi
A pleasing aspect of this book that caught my attention after receiving it was that weighing it in my hands it's proportions very much reminded me of the volumes produced by Katydid Books, most of which are now sadly slipping out of print and beyond, so to have a new translation of Japanese poetry is a welcome thing, here's to the making of a series. In the afterword, entitled Let's Talk About What We're Really Talking About from translator David Michael Ramirez II there is quite a bit made of the breaking of literary traditions and conventions in Henguchi's poetry, he describes the book's formation in detail with infectious enthusiasm, also hidden at the back of the book in slightly small text is a rather brief biography/chronology of Henguchi himself, perhaps this is how he wanted it, in which it's mentioned that he was published in Arechi/Wasteland, Henguchi's voice is a contemporary one.
The book comes in dual text and also the poems appear in differing fonts which subtly presents or recreates the effect perhaps of their dōjinshi origins, the book opens with the piece Nihongo a sprawling prose poem that spreads over four pages, (most of the poems in the book remain confined to a single page), in which Henguchi vents his frustrations with stilted language and how it's slidden into atrophy, and of this condition's affects in daily life, it's an impressive opening piece, after reading it I started to recall how perhaps older collections of poetry came with an index of first lines, with many of Henguchi's poems I envisioned the book being presented with an index of last lines as Nihongo culminates with - I would like to start a Nihongo that receives applause even in absolute darkness. After Nihongo there comes a selection of Henguchi's photography chaptered with the title For Dad, many of these shots are interior details, shots of the family home?, is that toilet plumbing in one?, another is a close up of tatami repaired or joined together with thick black carpentry tape, many are close ups reducing the image to elemental presences, we stare at the metallic foot grip of an escalator step, vivid green bamboo wall tiles, traditional imagery juxtaposed with that of the 'make do' present, a view through the waves in the glass of a window take on the perspective of looking down, a plane view out into the panoramic expanse of an ocean, in others we see perhaps the same image presented from a different angle or of the same face enlarging, getting closer and closer, the section ends with what could be a still of moving water, paused.
Reading the poems the reader might begin to look for common overarching themes, there's much reward in contemplating and comparing Henguchi's poetry as a whole as well as reading them one poem at a time, the narratives of Henguchi's poetry is one often caught between absolutes, either trying to escape them or alternatively forming new ones, or questioning where they might begin as in the prose poem; Framing the Freedom of Being Torn Apart which observes - Everything from start to finish is sure to be fiction. then posits the question - Where and when would you say is not fiction?, as with many of the poems there is the presence of unattainable realities, frustratingly some of these close at hand, desired or non-desired, the poem answers the question with the observation to the answer that lingers in the mind - In spite of that everybody is a damn creation, Henguchi's narratives are unflinching in their depictions of the vacuums between the fabric of realities imposed and unimposed, the struggle between the official and the unofficial is a theme not too distant in many of the poems and the precariousness of living and choosing between them, there's the challenging line - Realizing that the more sincere you become the more meaningless you become. Framing the Freedom of Being torn Apart is a poem made of clipped sentences, in ways it culminates in many places and times, the ending is a plea against maturing, but a little before the end a line laced with absolutism seems to arrive at a culmination before the poem's end - Everything, has an end in everything, Henguchi's voice blends visions of the darkest depths whilst still retaining in places indefatigable lines of resolve.
Truly no matter what happens it won't matter at all.
from Falling Slightly Forward
Lizard Telepathy Fox Telepathy at Chin Music Press