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Please Abide My Patience with Violet Grammar
(Five Letters from Araki Yasusada's Early Correspondence)

In the poetry world, it is by now generally known that Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada is a fiction created by its "primary translator" Tosa Motokiyu, the pseudonym of a writer who requested, before his passing in London in 1996, that his legal identity never be revealed. The following pieces are taken from a group of twenty letters by Yasusada to an American pen-pal (or "pal-pen," as Yasusada puts it) named "Richard." A short time before his death, Motokiyu indicated to us that these letters, along with other materials comprising Yasusada's juvenilia, were to be excluded from Doubled Flowering and only published after the collection's appearance. All of the letters are in holograph and most are in a state of "editorial disrepair," with marginal notes and numerous and often-contradictory bracketings and arrowings to indicate shiftings of sentences and longer passages—much akin, interestingly enough, to Motokiyu's description of the original condition of the letters within Yasusada's notebooks. Thus, we are working with care to make sure these epistolary imaginings, to use Moto's phrase, are finally presented in accurate form. Here then, with Motokiyu's faux editor's note and footnotes—for he originally intended the letters to appear as Yasusada's, "translated" by himself and his invented collaborators, Ojiu Norinaga and Okura Kyojin—are five of the entries assembled by us.* Seven additional letters can be viewed at Jacket (issue #9), and numerous others, in print form, in the journals Prosodia and Untitled. Though not belonging to the series, another previously unpublished letter from Yasusada's youth can be found at The East Village Poetry Web (issue #8—also located at the Faux Press site), with commentary on it in an interview with Kent Johnson at read.me (issue #1).

            —Kent Johnson and Javier Alvarez

* [Nota bene: All italicized notes in brackets are by us, including editorial indications inside Motokiyu's original footnotes. Unitalicized notes, including bracketed editorial indications inside Yasusada's letters, are Motokiyu's. KJ, JA]

* * *


[In holograph fair copy, inserted into the notebook containing the letter drafts. KJ, JA]

The following twenty extraordinary drafts of letters from Yasusada to a mysterious "Richard" constitute perhaps the most interesting writing from Yasusada's pre-war period. The letters are vertiginous in the multifaceted readings they make available: On the one hand (because there are no letters from him inserted in the notebooks as is the case with a variety of other correspondents), it is not possible to know if "Richard" is an actual person to whom fair copies of these drafts were sent,1 or whether he is Yasusada's invention—a foil of permission, so to speak, to justify the writing of letters to oneself. On the other hand, the strictly textual status [sic] of these pieces (in state of editorial disrepair as they are, with arrows and interjections everywhere) is a true enigma: although Yasusada began studies in Western Literature at Hiroshima University in 1925, we have no knowledge of his English skills at the time of composition (nor do we have evidence that he was taking the English classes which, as he suggests in a letter dated January 13, are the "assignment-source" of these letters). Thus, the fault-line here between the innocencies [sic] and ungrammaticalities of his evidently infant English on the one side, and his bizarre and biting lyricism on the other, is thrillingly indeterminate and shimmering. Nevertheless, it is clear that in these letters(or epistolary imaginings—whatever they may be) transgressions of grammar assume, purposely or not, the function of a certain seduction: a "skin" pulled back, to use Yasusada's phrasing, showing the "rising sun" of an eroticized and culturally-doubled libertinage. Thus, these pieces, written in Yasusada's 19th year, show him deploying, very early on, the idiosyncratic conceptual feints and shadowings that mark his work following the bomb.

Tosa Motokiyu, Ojiu Norinaga, Okura Kyojin

1Indeed, if Richard is real, one can only begin to guess at his bewildered reaction to his pen-pal's mailings—a state of confusion that Yasusada clearly, and progressively, toys with, until losing his patience with "Dick" altogether in the last quarter of the correspondence.

*[Though , as Marjorie Perloff has pointed out in her essay, "In Search of the Authentic Other: The Poetry of Araki Yasusada," Hiroshima University was not founded until 1949. KJ, JA]

* * * * * *


Dear Richard:

People in time drip like waxings. Life roars like a flame from head tops. Do not consider, even, some water to salve it. Does a giant salamander fly through air? Is a man a woman? Can the museum be pulled inside out?

Don't be sad, therefore, as we say in Buddhism. Life will be life, death will be death.

Today I asked a boy to say time on his wrist. His voice spoked it [sic] like a golden bird. Fire reached from his little skull to the sky. It is somewhat following nine of the morning, said he.1 Henceforth, I went into the sake shop and purchased with all my heart.

Is my headache the otherness of your dream? Please abide my patience with violet2 grammar. It is in part embarrassing for me, and I am a gift to you [sic]. There are waxened [sic] threads on the inside of my shirt. The museum sticks, hotly, to the skin.

What is the name of your wife, should you own one? Please write it for me, along with any children. I am trying to imagine you inside a house and the shapings of your mouth when you say Ohio.3

I am sincere,

1While we are unsure whether the allusion is intentional (the bomb exploded over Hiroshima at [time left blank in original— Motokiyu no doubt meant to look it up. KJ, JA]), and while our disagreements over the matter have been wafting [sic] and sharp, there is no doubt that this passage stands as one of the strongest arguments for seeing the Richard letters as fabricated by Yasusada after August, 1945.* [see our note below. KJ,JA]

2It seems possible that Yasusada means "violent." He also probably means the "my" and the "with" to be in transposed positions.

3The last sentence strikes us as one of the weakest, from a stylistic point of view, in the letters. It is, clearly, forced and coy, and has the effect of almost turning what is a strangely moving letter into an overall kind of snideness [sic].

*[The subtlety of Motokiyu's conceptual play reaches somewhat dizzying heights here. Indeed, the "deconstructions" of time become so labyrinthine and esoteric, that they arguably totter on becoming an exercise in outright and aggressive hermeticism. KJ, JA]

* * * * * *

September 3, 1926

Dear Richard:

I'm not certain to explain haiku art to you, pal-pen. It is a very large problem. Neverthemore, [sic] I will offer exemplars of my salamander attemptings [sic]1, ever explaining the moment from forth which each slid from her dark hole into the hole of the world [sic]2.

I have enslaved [sic]3 my teacher of English, Mr. Robert Boldman, from Dayton, Ohio, and former student of the State University of Wright [sic]4 to make my haiku into a more perfected English. Do you know it? It is in the city of Miami [sic], which is close to the River of Michigan,5 a magnificent waterway, on which pass astonishing barges with their mountains of African wheat and flaming Arabic corn. Flying fish and fresh water dolphin abound. Farm girls ride trot-trot [sic]6 on the seahorse, pressing down their fat sexes.7

Well, indeed so [sic]: Here are my haiku pal-pen. May their exemplar [sic] give you a taste of it. Please close your eyes following each for a minute or such approximately:

walking with the river
the river does my thinking

(One time I was walking by the Chiyoda River fishing for trout fish. I thought: The river is my thinking. Small birds, orange and red were fleeting.)


the round
luminous moon
fits in my head

(One night, in the prefecture of Kanda, I urined [sic] into some flowers of peony. The wind came and took my urination in a small spray to my geisha beside me. "I liked it," said she. Thus I shivered and looked at the luminous moon.)8


lifting the lid
of night
my eye

(One time after many sake bottles with the Soun haiku club, my dearest friend, Natsume Soseki, lifted my eye. His eye was suddenly my eye. Wake up, wake up, said he.)


walking side by side
the trees
not speaking

(One time I had a dream. The trees were not speaking. Father and his dead son walked hand in hand silently. It was I who was dead.)


nuns putting sheets on the mirrors

(One time I thought of this while sitting sesshin at Eihei-ji. I returned to my breath, letting the picture in my mind fall away like some cloud.)


the wind enters
between our voices

(My father said this suddenly to me after we had left behind us the trees.)


Buddha's granite face
wearing the wind away

(There is a great statue in Afghanistan. The wind can do not a thing against it.)


the corpse of a raven whitens the snow

(Neverthemore, a raven is black. It matters not.)


in the ears
of rice

(In Hiroshima the wind is rattling the rice.)


the priest
his shadow caught
on a nail

(Only in zazen.)


on the line

(One time I saw this in the Okayama district in the courtyard of a house of pleasuring. I said to my friend, Yamagata Aritomo, "We shall live forever.")

Please write again. Your pal-pen,

Araki Yasusada

1An idiomatic phrase in Japanese. Something paltry or insignificant is often adjectivized with "salamander," although this is less common in the area around Hiroshima, famed for its giant salamanders, which can grow up to thirty pounds.

2The phrasing here is so bizarre as to approach the humorous, inasmuch as there seems to be a scatological suggestion.

3Yasusada seems to either be working awkwardly from a dictionary or he is being purposefully playful.

4Wright State University. *A[see our note A below. KJ, JA]

5Obviously, Yasusada is confused in his geography.

6The "trot-trot" is in English in the original. Interestingly enough, the common onomatopoeia for the sound of horse hooves in Japanese is "cunt-cunt." Yasusada's use of the English could hardly be a coincidence, in our opinion.

7Clearly, Yasusada is employing poetic license here, and one can only imagine Richard's reaction, if, indeed, he was real. But then, when one thinks about it: If in real life there truly are seahorses, why shouldn't Richard, also, be real?

8This is truly a beautiful passage. *B[see our note B below in reference to Motokiyu's footnote. KJ, JA]

*A[Of interest here is that Wright State University, in Detroit, Michigan, was not founded until the late 1960's. In the 1990's it became one of the central foci of Language poetry's carefully plotted strategy to infect the academy and cannibalize it from within— a move that is still causing a large degree of "collateral damage" on an international scale, from Paris to La Paz, from China (see the anthology Chinese Language Poetry), to, even (see the journal P=R=I=M=I=T=I=V=E), Papau New Guinea. The echo of the founding-date error to the one in Doubled Flowering pointed out by Marjorie Perloff in regards to the founding date of Hiroshima University is interesting. KJ, JA]

*B[Indeed it is. However, we should point out that one of Motokiyu's favorite books of poetry was Jack Gilbert's Monolithos. The image is taken directly from one of Gilbert's poems therein. KJ, JA]

* * * * * *

(letter draft very damaged)1 *A[see our note 'A' below. KJ, JA]


To Kobayashi Hideo2

—Discuss shishosetsu as postmodern* [see our note 'B' below. KJ, JA] because lacking in linear plot.

—My letters to pal-pen Richard as a kind of epistolary shishosetsu quite complicated immensely by the vaudevillian nature fact of their English. I see each letter as a "scene," so to speak, a making shaping of an abstract form out of strokes of color. Cezanne the foreign tongue But it English is like painting with the beak of a living bird, dipped its beak wing dipped in the paint of words. In this way, you see, I don't have to worry too much about the "homogenizing funnel of perspective": Language is a wind which that tosses the leaves I

A perceptual space is created that contains an actual wind that blows actual leaves. Of course, the leaves belong to trees I have planted and (sometimes quite artfully) pruned, but still, I expose them to a certain particular weather I the "I" has nothing to do with. The "I" floats through it.

[Illegible passage follows, as paper is charred, as if a flame had been held to it briefly from below. eds]

I propose this: Language When languages cross (as I am crossing or passing into Richard) they cease to become leap outside the ideology landscape's ideology And by the way, I have a bone to pick with you on your discussion views of If the "I" is not a product of innate psychology but of specific economies of visual and linguistic configuration [sic] then here, where there is no configuration save save the ancientness of difference, there can be no homogenous gazing (though, of course, in a sweet delicious irony of dialectics, [sic] I gaze upon that unconfigured space). But I never get out of that real weather I mentioned earlier.3

[Illegible passage due to charring. eds.]

... that shishosetsu as is postmodern because less modern, because lacking in linear plot? If space Vision arranged fashioned slavishly around a the vanishing point is may be impressive as painterly is fine and I don't dismiss it. (How else show power lines on Mt. Hakone running toward the sacred distance of Mt. Fuji?)4 But our Tanizaki's and Uchimura's5 forget that this type of vision, which comes to Japan us at the dawn of Meiji, arises, originally, in the 15th century Europe. Tanizaki, for example, thinks we lack something the West, through the novel, can give us: the ability to construct plot as an architecture to supplant the pre-modern rickitiness of the tea house. But Akutagawa, bless him, is right. It is shishosetsu that supercedes [illegible. eds.] Plot, as our Tanizaki's use it, is not so much modern as Victorian, an architectur6

[Illegible passage due to charring. eds.]

.... With some the prostitutes, and how it was the first time (for both of us?) You were the one they most seemed to desire, Hideo. Right then, I knew I knew you would be more famous. Your career rises, old friend, swelling and firm before you! Sorry about that See you at the meeting next month I propose

[Rest of draft illegible due to charring. eds.]

1Indeed, the letter is very unfinished, damaged, and difficult to decipher. Because of the interesting historical and theoretical material Yasusada is prodding, and because his cross-outs and corrections hint at his process of writing and thought, we have decided to render this letter as closely as possible to its original form.

2Kobayashi Hideo (1905-1983). Leading literary critic, who reinvented his career and established his influence around 1933 after the repression of the Marxist Proletarian Art movement, to which both he and Yasusada belonged in their youth. As Karatani Kojin has written, Kobayashi's essays, especially his "Watakushi-shosetsuron" ("On the I-Novel"), published in 1935, have been seen as establishing a new genre of criticism which interpreted Japanese literature in a broader context. Kobayashi's influence extended well into the postwar period, when his writing included works on the Japanese classics, Japanese and Western painting, modern philosophy, and so forth. The personal fragment by Yasusada at the draft's end is fascinating, to say the least.

3In that shishosetsu is an ideological reaction formation to increasingly hegemonic Western "perspectival configurations," Yasusada's letters to Richard may be seen as having a doubled nature: An attempt to communicate with an Other, in the most everyday, pen-pal sense of the word, on the one hand, and, on the other, as a gesture of resistance to one of the primary Western tongues through which a "foreign" homogenizing space is transplanted into Meiji literature. In other words, Yasusada could be seen as self-consciously inhabiting, in anonymous but rebellious fashion, a foreign strangeness that was rapidly coming to inhabit Japanese literature at large.

4Here, Yasusada is no doubt alluding to Kobayashi Kiyochika's famous painting, "View of Mt. Fuji from the Mountain of Hakone— Sketched at 3p.m. in Early January." The painting is noteworthy as example of early Meiji appropriation of Western strategies of perspective and illusory depths. [sic]

5Tanizaki Junichiro (1886-1965) and Uchimura Kanzo (1861-1930), prominent exponents at the time of Western fictional approaches.

6The idea, from the standpoint of a speculation of Yasusada's youthful politics, is interesting, inasmuch as there is a strong echo here of Trotsky's theories of "Uneven and Combined Development" and "Permanent Revolution", which posit that differing the dialectical interlocking [sic] of differing (syncopated?) productive/social stages of historical development (i.e., the superimposition by mercantile colonial powers, beginning in the 16th century, of capitalist relations of international commerce onto slave or feudalized social forms relations of production in satellized [sic] areas of the world market) (or rather, the structural integration of pre-capitalist modes into a mercantilist world market) leads to dynamically contradictory structures that enable (indeed, make necessary) a "skipping over" of capitalist development under the leadership of the native bourgeoisie, and bequeaths an immediate revolutionary role to the embryonic proletariat in these hybridized, "comprador" economies. The establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat is, then, the only viable way of carrying forward the revolutionary historical mission of the bourgeoisie in colonial or neo-colonial areas. *D[see our note 'D' below. KJ, JA]

*A[Motokiyu's draft is likewise unfinished, damaged, and very difficult to decipher, though not in the sense of "burning," as his notes indicate. Because of the interesting historical and theoretical material Motokiyu is prodding, and because his cross-outs and corrections hint at his process of writing and thought, we have decided to render this letter as closely as possible to its original form. There are, alas, no clear indications as to where, on the one hand, the cross-outs are Motokiyu's own revisions, or where, on the other, they are intended to be Yasusada's. KJ, JA]

*B[Obviously, a note by Motokiyu to himself. KJ, JA]

*C[In margin, Motokiyu has written, "See Adorno for correct phrasing. KJ, JA]

*D[The analogy by Motokiyu is awkwardly drawn and not entirely clear. No doubt he would have developed it more carefully in finished form. Motokiyu did have a keen interest in leftist politics, and owned numerous texts by or about Leon Trotsky, including his History of the Russian Revolution, the pamphlet The American Proletariat and the Question of Negro Nationalism, the multi-volume biography by Isaac Deutscher, and Trotsky's own autobiography, My Life. KJ, JA]

* * * * * *

December 10, 1926

Dear Richard:

Please give my thanks to Mrs. Blavatsky of the Oxford, Ohio Haiku Club of America for her generous comments on my haiku. My English teacher, Robert Boldman, is kindly writing as I dictate in my tongue. Therefore, this letter will perhaps not be as entertaining to you as my previous ones. But I wanted to try a "Displacement of the Main Reed into the Other," as the ikebana saying goes. I suppose I might have done this from the start, but one must learn from her1 errors, linguistic and otherwise.2

In answer to Mrs. Blavatsky's query concerning the traditional constraint of seventeen syllables and kigo,3 it is the case that many Japanese poets since Hekigodo4 do not place much importance on these things. In particular, the haiku group Soun, or Layered Clouds, led by Ogiwara Seisensui, to which I belong, has made a point of moving beyond these artificial prosodic "rules." So the picture is somewhat complicated, to say the least.

Please tell Mrs. Blavatsky that we do not all walk around with cherry blossoms and cuckoo birds on our kimonos. In fact, some of us even drive the latest Ford-T automobiles to the tea-ceremony.5 We also have aeroplanes and hydrogen-airships in Japan. These sometimes fall to earth, incinerating urban inhabitants.6 Thank you in advance for doing so. We are waiting, sitting on our paper toilets.

Here are some more of my haiku. As in my previous letter, I offer, in more or less haibun style, commentary on the surrounding circumstances of the poem. But you and your friends in Ohio who are interested in things Japanese should read the prose as part and parcel of the poem, if that makes any sense to you. In fact, you should read what I am saying *right now* as part of the bigger poem, Dick:7

lark song
down to
its bones

(one night, beneath a single moon, I saw the little bones of a bird. Just then, a lark sang.)


leaf by leaf

(It's morning, and time, in its illusion, is moving. I was washing my teeth.)


writing this
the dandelions ache
in my fingers

(This is an example, Dick, of a bad haiku. When I presented it at the Soun, Hosai, a very fine poet and Buddhist monk, slapped, while laughing, repeatedly his knee.)


turning in my sleep
the skeleton

(Once, in Osaka, I slept in hotel. My sleep was restless.)


moths moving
the distant mountain

(This also is a failed haiku. Santoka Taneda said [he is also a Buddhist monk] at a meeting of the Soun:
"It is too clever."
I said, "What do you mean, 'clever'?"
He said, "You should do something about the pimples on your nose?")


lilies open
the lonely

(This is my best haiku. I'm not sure what to say to you beyond it. I am lonely for you, Dick.)

Write me once again.

your pal-pen,

Araki Yasusada

1An odd use of the feminine pronoun, especially for the time.

2The reference would seem to be to Richard's generalized cultural misprision.

3Or "season word."

4Kawahigashi Hekigoto [1873-1937], student of Shiki and close friend (though later poetic rival) of Takahama Kyoshi, he is one of the great and early haiku experimentalists.

5Yasusada did belong to the Snow Inside Iris Tea Club, which was led by the avant-garde tea master, Ishida Tota, later to die as the pilot of a manned torpedo in the Battle of Midway.

6Another clue that the letters may have been "invented" by Yasusada after the bombing. However, it is also possible that this is a reference to the famous Hindenberg disaster of 1925.*A [see our note A below, KJ, JA]

7Extremely interesting, as it suggests a sense on Yasusada's part that the letters, en su totalidad,*B [see our note B below,KJ, JA] constitute a poetic performance.

*A[A mistake, whether intentional or not: The Hindenberg disaster did not take place until 1937. KJ, JA]

*B["en su totalidad": In their totality. Motokiyu was fluent in Spanish.]

* * * * * *

June 2, 1927

Dear Ogata Kamenosuke:

Thank you for sending me the copy of Dr. Albert Einstein's letter to you1 wherein he responds to "A Cigarette is My Wandering Friend." Reading it, I could hear his voice, exactly as it was, gentle [rest of sentence illegible in Motokiyu's original, KJ, JA]. And I could see the profiles of Tsubouchi Hideo, Shimazaki Toson, Yanagita Naoya, and Tayama Mimei, sitting in a row,2 like Greek busts, their lips slightly parted, listening to the stumbling translator, an acquaintance of Toson— an attache from the Greek embassy, actually, named Karavis, poor man.

Time and space... Did they die in the Kanto quake, or is that still to come?3 Delicate lines of smoke fall from Toson's nose; beads of sweat pearl white on Mimei's brow; a tear wells in Hideo's eye; a ray of bluish light shoots out of the back of Naoya's skull.4

Komata Yusuke from MAVO5 wrote me last week. He wishes to publish my correspondence with Richard of the State of Ohio, U.S.A. [sic] that I have shared with you. I am not sure of this. On the one hand, I am flattered and desire to have my writings placed in such a noteworthy place. On the other, I feel that this will necessarily betray his innocent confidence, and I am loathe to do so.6

Could you give me your opinion on what I should do? I want to be a part of MAVO, of course (wasn't the last issue which contained "Strange Season"7 wonderful), but I wonder about the morality of the paradox [sic], even though he would never discover it.8

To me you are greater, more like Einstein than any of them who try to be like Cezanne or Picasso.9 It is the subject in time that matters, not the canvass or page.

Here is a poem I've written in the past couple of days. Please tell me what you think.

Getting up around noon, the sun was at the apex of the M.*A [see our note A below. KJ, JA] For no particular reason, I felt so at ease I did without washing the mask of kabuki paint off my face.

In a shady corner of the shady garden, the camellia has been blooming with abandon for the past two days.

In the desk drawer there are the remains of white copper coins (two), with dark holes in their middles. I remember, with a great spasm, where they came from.

When the sun shines at a slant through the paper door, the bidet where I wash the waste of myself is the brightest place in the house (through the coins jammed up against my eyes).

My regards,11

1No copy of such a letter, unfortunately (!), is present in the notebooks. Indeed, Einstein did visit Tokyo and lecture there at Tokyo University in 1922. Yasusada would have been only 16 at the time. This, no doubt, is the specific occasion Yasusada refers to. "A Cigarette Is My Wandering Friend" has come to be one of Ogata's best known poems, often anthologized in Japan, though never, until now, translated into English:*1[see our note below, KJ, JA]

This is a city with no person

It is an eerie city, as if someone has brought a midnight city where not a single man is walking , not even a dog

The trees aren't green, and the stone pavement looks old, covered by something like a mist, the city looks somewhat like a face

It is a flat city with the smell of a rotten flower; it has no wind, no rain, no sun , and perhaps not even a sky

It is a city from which no one knows when humans vanished or why they vanished

The scene depicted in Ogata's poem strongly evokes Hiroshima and Nagasaki in days after their atomic destruction, and Yasusada's choice of this "eerily" prescient poem would lend further force to the view held by two of us (Norinaga & Kyojin) that the Richard letters were elaborately constructed by Yasusada *after* the bombing as a kind of indirect, meta-fictional commentary on it. One of us (Motokiyu) is of the strong opinion that these letters could well be genuine drafts of actual correspondence, and that the coincidences that vein [sic] them possibly constitute a kind of "supernatural" sensing of the future.

2Only the romantic poet Shimazaki Toson's name is recognizable. The other names appear to be fabricated.*2 [see our note below, KJ, JA]

3Clearly, on Yasusada's part, a smarty-pants [sic] thing with Einstein's Theory of Relativity. The great Kanto quake of Tokyo took place in 1923, the year following the lecture by Einstein that Yasusada describes. Shimazaki Toson was to disappear in the quake, his body never found. The reference to what "is still to come" is eerie, obviously.*3 [see our note below, KJ, JA]

4This is quite an odd image, to say the least.

5Komata was a leader of MAVO, an avant-garde association of artists and writers established in July, 1923. Out of MAVO grew Shi to Shiron, the most influential early avant-garde journal of poetry and poetics in Japan (appearing 1929-1932), in which Yasusada published three poems under the Westernized pen-name "Cogito".

6In referring to betraying "innocent confidences," it is unclear, actually, if Yasusada means Richard or Komata, the leader of MAVO. Interestingly, if the latter is the case, Yasusada could possibly be suggesting that the Richard letters —as fabrications— would constitute a kind of "ethical transgression" of 1920's Japanese avant-garde honor codes, whose intricate rituals and protocols have been detailed by Alan Davies in his book Signage.*4 [see our note below]

7The poem, published in Gendaishi bunko Ogata Kamenosuke Shishu (The Poetic Works of Ogata Kamenosuke) reads as follows:

The next day was rainy. The day after that was snowy. On the day after that there was a fucking sty on my right eye.

In the afternoon a coin went into nothing. The weather turned to sleet shit and the month of February shut down.

The butcher and liquor seller to whom I had been meaning to pay even a tithing, went back into his den with hardly a murmur, which is really weird.

8This remark is one of those moments that truly raises a question concerning the truth status of these letters.*5 [see our note below, KJ, JA] But, of course, it is possible that Yasusada is extending the fabrication into his "friendship" with Ogata, in the sense of either fooling the really-existing Ogata outright, or inventing his friendship with this famous writer wholesale. Since there is no other correspondence with Ogata, or mention of him elsewhere in the notebooks, it is impossible to be sure either way. In the end, in face of such dizzying conceptual pyrotechnics, we feel we must ask: Are these letters the after-wake of the Yasusada work, or are they, rather, in their bizarre and meta-roomed complexity, the climax of a total conception [sic] to which Doubled Flowering was meant in advance as a kind of vestibule? We can't say.*6 [see our note below, KJ, JA]

9The analogy is awkward, obviously.

10This is in fact, a very free translation, with numerous elaborations, from "A Day in March," a poem by Ogata himself. One could assume that Yasusada means the poem in the sense of homage.*7 [See our note below, KJ, JA]

11The letter is in carbon copy.*8 [See our note below, KJ, JA]

*A[The reference suggests Motokiyu's acquaintance with the work of Dante. KJ, JA]

*1[Motokiyu, awkwardly, does not introduce Ogata, a poet and painter who was briefly associated with Tokyo avant-garde movements in the 1920's before retreating into absolute poverty and silence. He died in 1933. KJ. JA]

*2[Motokiyu is being "difficult" here: In fact, Shimazaki Toson is the only name that is not recognizable, as the others are all actual minor poets of the early Tokyo avant-garde! KJ, JA]

*3[Again, to our knowledge, Toson is an invented figure. Both Mimei and Naoya did, indeed, perish in the Kanto quake. Hideo gave up poetry around 1930 and went on to become captain of a Japanese battleship, the "Kobayashi". He went down with his ship in the famous battle of Midway. KJ, JA]

*4[This is a surprising note by Motokiyu and reveals that this letter, at least, was written after 1988, the publication year of Davies' Signage, one of the great books of poetics of the post-Vietnam years. Nothing of the sort Moto refers to is present in Davies' book. Interestingly, Davies, closely associated with the Language poets, is a long-time practitioner of Zen and the one poet of that group who publicly dissented from the reductive postmodern view of "language precedes consciousness" stance of the L=A=N=G=U=A==G=E poets. KJ, JA]

*5[It's not clear to us how this note "truly raises a question concerning the truth status" of the letters. KJ, JA]

*6[And neither can we. KJ, JA]

*7[Indeed, Motokiyu's personal library, now housed at the homes of Javier Alvarez in London and Mexico D.F., contains both Ogata Kamenosuke zenshu (Complete Works of Ogata Kamenosuke. Tokyo, Shichosa: 1970) and Gendaishi bunko Ogata Kamenosuke Shishu (The Poetic Works of Ogata Kamenosuke. Tokyo: Shichosa, 1975). KJ, JA]

*8[The letter is typed out by Motokiyu, with numerous penciled corrections and some whited-out sections, including the uncorrected illegible passage we have noted in text. KJ, JA]


Issue No. 16 Copyright © 2002 The Transcendental Friend. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.