And so the year begins (… better late than never)

Aoba-yama park04s3872Hooray, I’ve just written my first poem for the year!

(Yes, I know it’s February already – return your gaze to the post title for a moment. See? I realise it may seem as though I create the titles first and then organise my life – or at least my posting schedule – to follow from that, but it’s actually the other way around.)

Ahem. As I was saying: the first computer-draft of the year’s first poem is sitting beside me, and looks pretty decent. More to the point, it feels really good to have written. Now it goes to the file, and will be presented to my first reader when we get together for our first session of the year. Then it will languish in a brand new folder, awaiting its turn in the editing queue. I’m not going to post the poor wobbly thing here (or not yet awhile), but as part of my plan to use providing updates as a motivating tool, I will give you some background to it, as well as the title, first two and last lines. (Yep, I’m a tease. And a wuss. But tease is the main aspect currently on show.)

The poem started from a translation by Tony Barnstone of Jorge Luis Borges“Music Box”, spun up from my Poetry Foundation app. (Seriously, if you have any sort of iDevice, you need to get this one. It’s free, and it’s brilliant.) I Chinese Whispered it (put it through several different languages in translation, making sure it got as many ‘errors’ as possible along the way), and then sat down to see what it suggested.

Sendai montage
The resulting poem was a lot of fun to write. It’s completely different to the source, although if you knew to look I suspect you’d probably be able to see some traces of its parentage. Somehow it ended up taking a glance at Japan after the earthquakes and tsunami of 2011, although it’s not really an earthquake poem as such – informed by the earthquakes, but not about them, if that makes sense. (Cantabrians, I hear you nodding.) I spent quite a bit of time Wikisurfing through Japanese history, and especially the history of the Sendai region of Japan.

One of the weird things that came up was a reference to a famous Japanese poem written by Doi Bansui, called “Kōjō no Tsuki” or “The Moon over the desolate castle”. Believe it or not, one of the best regarded recordings of it is by the German soft metal band, ‘Scorpions’ … (for a nice translation of the poem, have a look at Minako Watanabe’s site). I’m quite glad I had the draft complete before I went looking for this poem.

Anyway, that’s one down. Just another hrumhrumphindestinguishablehrumph to go.
Enjoy your ‘amuse bouche’. And remember – eat more vegetables! (Nothing to do with poetry: just good advice.)

Postcard from Sendai

When you speak of Japan, I hear temple bells,
their deep-throated song through morning air
[…]
past future, voices lifting in song, in laughter?

Oooh, such a tease!

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