Saturday, January 13, 2007

I am a Poet

Common widsom is: Fiction and journalism don't mix. A reporter getting carried away with make-believe while on the job will end up in a lot of trouble.
I have always kept that side of me that is a poet separate from my work.
Poetry is so private and touches that deep core inside of you that's nowhere objective enough to be acknowledged by someone who is a dedicated reporter.
My first poem to get published (and that was some time back when I was still a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley) was a totally politically incorrect piece titled "Big White Bitch."
A couple of my other poems:

Loving Younger Men

Only the bodies of young men aroused her;
the pure innocence in their wide dark eyes,
the wild still animal strength in their muscles,
the smoothness of their skin, so shiny, stretched
out over their boy-like shoulders, flat stomachs,
abdominals rippling gently, their thick thighs
that could thrust forever into the night, their
soft moist lips, where their tonges, so delicious,
dwelt, which darted against, into her vagina,
making her moan with joy, forgetting everything,
which felt so strong against her own tongue at one
moment, yet another, seemed to melt like caramel
in the back of her throat,
their dry fingers, that touched her in the most
unexpected and expecting spots,
their penises, half-covered by their black curls,
seemed smaller, less developed, less threatening,
yet as their shoulders strangely widened
when they held her, their penises filled her,
pointed against her deepest uterine insides,
hurting her with a pleasurable pain, as though
she could sense with her hand, their movements
from outside her belly. Her father beat her as a girl.
She ran from him, crying, please don't hit me! please
don't hit me! No, rather she stood defiant, silent,
silent tears drunk down her chest, till he, in anger
or fear,
slapped her again and again, once so hard she was
swung across the room, once on her left ear so
that she could not hear for three weeks. She
frequented bars, searching for young men who desired
her. She sat alone drinking. She preferred
the pretty effeminate types _ perfectly featured,
a Michelangelo creation, island faces with coral eyes,
faces of unknown tribal child-princes. To escape
her family, she eloped at sixteen, with an alchoholic.
who tortured her every night, binding her with ropes,
sticking his penis into her mouth until she choked,
hitting her face into bruises, kicking her in
the stomach, aborting her child, his child.
The young boys' heads, she would hold, after orgasm,
rocking them in her arms. She would kiss the side of their
tanned necks, breathe in the ocean scent of their hair,
lick their ear lobes and inside their ears. When they
fell asleep, sprawled like a puppy upon her sheets,
their mouths open, she would lie awake watching,
watching, watching, admiring their bodies, how so
aesthetically formed, balanced, textured. What
she enjoyed the most was their fondling her breasts,
suckling, massaging the flesh, flicking the tongue
against the nipple, biting, sucking till her nipples
were red-hot for days. She could come just by this,
without penetration.
When she is alone, she cries. In the dark, she reaches
upwards, into the air, grabbing nothing.

Cooking Poem

sizzling chopped garlic
minced ginger
nearly cut bok choy
shrieking sesame oil
a giant spoon
scraping the wok
his arm from behind hugs her stomach
he kisses her ear
"how's your day?"
the shoyu turns greens into black
he tells her the latest occurrences
the spoon bangs
the bok choy
gnarled and wilted
"dinner is ready"
steam from the dish
reaches the ceiling

My book of poems, "Peeling," can be ordered, by the way, at or from I. Reed Books in Oakland:

and from me in Tokyo:

c/o The AP
Shiodome Media Tower 7th Floor
1-7-1 Higashi Shimbashi
Minato-ku Tokyo

Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa gave me some nice words to put on the backcover. He says my poetry is seeing "through the anguished eyes of a half-breed the boundless universe in everyday life."

Poet, essayist and novelist Ishmael Reed, who published my book, was a literature professor at UC Berkeley when I met him.
He has written wonderfully delicious books like "Mumbo Jumbo" and "Yellow Back Radio Broke Down." He is now retired from the university but busy as ever writing.
He recently won the so-called "genius award" MacArthur Fellowship.
He came to Tokyo to read his poetry with musicians at the Blue Note jazz club. A CD version of the performance "Conjure Bad Mouth" made No. 4 on the Village Voice's Jazz Vocal list.

The bottom line is: Poetry is everywhere, if we stop to listen.
What makes life worth living are the poetic moments.
The infinite color of the sky, the rattle of the Tokyo commuter train, the way love hurts in your chest, even the cheap bounce of singsong words on a billboard.


Hiroko Tabuchi said...

Hey, I want to read "Big White Bitch"

Can you also post your poem about the white male?

And there are some _ not many _ amazing people out there like you:
If it's making news, he can make it verse

Yuri Kageyama said...

Unfortunately, the IHT article isn't on the Web anymore. Could you tell us more about this writer? I'll try to garner more courage to post more on my poetry/thoughts about race since that is a topic that will never cease to be my/our fascination.

Yuri Kageyama said...

Oops. Found the article. Yes, isn't David Tucker amazing _ especially the part that he kept writing poetry even as he worked like mad as a reporter/editor. I find I have had less and less time to write poetry because writing takes up energy, and all that energy felt sapped from work, although I try to inject/sneak poetry in every AP story I write. I don't like to write poetry in pieces. (It would be a bit like having sexual intercourse with the man of your dreams in pieces.) That's why it's so difficult for me to write on weekends as Tucker did and be working on a poem for years until it got finished. My poems these days are just ideas circling around in my head. One advice I heard some time back, which I think is so true, is that a poet shouldn't even write a letter or a diary entry because that power should be saved to go to the poem, not some other writing, probably blogs as well! (Also, I'll try to remember not to use "stunned" in my articles.) I used to feel that if I wrote poetry, then I'd be expressing such personal opinions, that would conflict with the persona of objectivity that I needed to maintain on my job. That's silly, huh? Because who would read my poems anyway if they were published in some literary magazine!! I should have done what Tucker did all these years, and I'd have more poems. But I also tell myself poetry is that moment when we are still here but we connect to there. POETS are people who have that special eye/ear/soul to be in tune with the eternal. And that means poetry is everywhere. Even in death.