Introducing Kijima Hajime
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Jan 2018
In 2004, I had the good fortune to edit a literary anthology (Manifestations), featuring work by such modern lights as former president Jimmy Carter, and a few touchstone-perennials like Mark Twain and Charles Baudelaire. A recent, happy and fortuitous find for me was the work of Kijima Hajime. (Fortuitous, since my long-time “match-maker” Japanese mother-in-law happened to meet a cousin of Kijima-san’s and in their tete-a-tete about the potential couple’s first meeting, Kijima-san’s and my mutual interest in poetry was also mentioned and matched!) But I digress….
And that’s fine. In various ways, poetry is an art of digressions. One builds unexpectedly—through rhymes, metaphors, similes, assonance and consonance, etc.—not just “castles in the air”—but castles, and sometimes shacks, to live in, get the feel of, try on for size, in order to gain new awareness.
Hajime-san is just such a “builder.” We’re not sure where he’s going. He deliberately clouds the well-worn pathway, so we search for another way, a deeper &/or higher meaning. Good poems persuade us to re-read them, maybe to say them aloud and to share them. Great poems become part of us. As Rilke concluded in his “Archaic Torso of Apollo” poem, great art persuades us: “you must change your life!”
The following, from Responses Magnetic, are Kijima-san’s self-translations, as they appeared in the Manifestations anthology. (I never got to know him in-person; he passed away in a Tokyo hospital shortly after the publication of the anthology—a publication I dedicated to him and to Jimmy Carter, and with which he was well-pleased.) His work lives on.
The Enormous Axe
I have only the criteria of shame,
Which implies…my likes and dislikes are extreme!
There is no compensation for love.
I have only a silent crucifix,
Which suggests…my eyes are always open!
I appeal to the wind, to the court of souls.
I have only the enemy’s melody.
Which hints…I am always persuaded in tears!
Humans are hacked down in every city.
Even at night we cannot flee from the dead souls of feuds.
When midsummer comes, we want to cover the sky with crepe.
Today, let’s clamber up, mount, ascend and ascend.
When we reach the star of death,
even the haunted stop deceiving themselves.
They won’t complain in that empty space.
Since the cosmos should be our resonant instrument,
let’s compose an infinity of horribly beautiful ashes.
Though the wind’s breath is distorted and we cannot hear messages
the notes of our strange bird that pecked the ashes
make a contagious parabola.
Raison d’Etre of Red
One cannot live without stealing fire
Having played with fire, one knows
inner forms, inner function.
Friends’ unknown eyes meet
and the flame twirls up:
or oxygen consumes everything, then disappears.
We become bones of ancient cities on the sea bottom;
we become the musical score for flickering sunbeams:
This time we perform love burning ourselves.
This time…this fire in darkness…this demon’s tongue…
Without red, I can never have a color.
Kijima Hajime, one of Japan’s outstanding modern poets, published children’s books, as well as poetry, and liked to illustrate his books with his own collages and ink drawings. Several of his books have been translated into English.
Dr. Gary Corseri is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He has published and posted articles, fiction and poems at hundreds of venues worldwide and his dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere. He has performed his poems at the Carter Presidential Library and has taught in universities in the US and Japan. Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 Jan 2018.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Introducing Kijima Hajime, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
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