From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier

From “The Abundance of Less Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan" by Andy Couturier

Pages 264-265

“Sooo..” I begin to ask him, a bit apprehensive, not wanting to be insulting, “Gufu-san, why write all this stuff down?”

Unperturbed, he replies simply, “To make a record. If you don’t record things, you start to lose your sense of the place. It’s also interesting when you talk to other people, or when I want to look up something later. But it’s mostly just to make a record, even if I don’t use the information.”

“Yes, but how do you decide which things to write down?”

“Whatever is possible to write down, I write. How much the bus cost. How much the movie was, or how much the hotel was.”

“But why?” I ask.

“I didn’t have any purpose in doing it.”

No purpose? Perhaps I’ve been too attached to all my own actions being done for a reason. Utilitarianism is so deep in my culture I don’t even notice it. Listening to Gufu it occurs to me that it may not be so good to be always reaching ahead in time. Sitting here with my friend in a farmhouse in the mountains of Japan, I find my way of seeing the world start to deepen and change. All these little, unlooked-at details create the fabric of memory. By writing them down, we are refusing to let the experiences of our lives get subsumed in the tsunami of time, the onrush of the next, and the next, and the next. I think of so many travelers (myself included) zipping from one location to the next, taking photos of scenery or a building. Have I been missing the beautiful in the obvious?

Gufu is showing me--not that he’s trying to show me anything--that the whole world can come alive with these tiny details, ephemera, you might call them. But not just a generalized “world,” but a specific world, an India of a particular time, and, as it happens, an India that is disappearing every day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shift & Switch New Canadian Poetry

Because I am already frozen into my own inelastic suit of composition, because I cannot poke out thorns, because I fail at being brave, because poems crack like eggs that I am too heavy sitting on in the nest of brackish water, because floats of coconuts raft me away, because of all these matters—well I have to read a book of poems made by poets who do not conform.

Conformity. What does this mean?  Well in poetry –it means influence and submission. We are all brought up to be good citizens and when we are given an education; unfortunately with that gift comes bland, uniform ways of thinking and writing. So our poetry tends to mirror what we see and what we read and what we experience, which in Canada, appears to be a great porridge bowl.

How to arrive out of it?  Hell, I don’t know. I write the same  bland, virus-pure nature poetry of any normal poet-to-be and I don’t know how to make myself pathogenic enough to seize every bit of human life and make them sicken in some typhoid epidemic of desire for my poems.

And so I read poets who do know how to erase the strictures from their past education and float on a new sea of creation that takes them to whatever they conceive of as being unique. Some of these poets are in the book “Shift and Switch New Canadian Poetry,” that I am currently goggling over.  Yes, I know even this stuff is mild compared to dear Mr. Henri Michaux but it is revolutionary for Canadian poetry readers like myself.  Some interesting stuff. I’m gagging through it now, so give me a bit of time to adjust my sensibility out of the Victorian ages to this new age of poetical destruction and reconstruction and I’ll let you know how I fared in the melting pot of new poets.

In other news, the boy did not like “ The Catcher in the Rye, “ which I will have to read in solitary confinement as he refuses to be anywhere in the vicinity of that "boring book"; the good news is that we will now reenter the story we dropped to read it—“Sea of Monsters,” and hopefully finish it to read another author.  We’ve got schoolwork to do as well although I would rather have him simply suck up books 24 hours a day and I do have my own books to read (I am still reading E.B.  White’s book “One Man’s Meat,” that is delish but is starting to send dagger looks my way for reading poetry instead of essays. So off I go.)

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