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Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem

 
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2011-04-07, 15:37    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem Reply with quote

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The author of this extraordinary poem which I recently discovered and would like to share sends his regards and gassho to all our members. Enjoy.

Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi
BY GARRETT HONGO

No one knew the secret of my flutes,
and I laugh now
because some said I was enlightened.
But the truth is
I’m only a gardener
who before the War
was a dirt farmer and learned
how to grow the bamboo
in ditches next to the fields,
how to leave things alone
and let the silt build up
until it was deep enough to stink
bad as night soil, bad
as the long, witch-grey
hair of a ghost.

No secret in that.

My land was no good, rocky,
and so dry I had to sneak
water from the whites,
hacksaw the locks off the chutes at night,
and blame Mexicans, Filipinos,
or else some wicked spirit
of a migrant, murdered in his sleep
by sheriffs and wanting revenge.
Even though they never believed me,
it didn’t matter—no witnesses,
and my land was never thick with rice,
only the bamboo
growing lush as old melodies
and whispering like brush strokes
against the fine scroll of wind.

I found some string in the shed
or else took a few stalks
and stripped off their skins,
wove the fibers, the floss,
into cords I could bind
around the feet, ankles, and throats
of only the best bamboos.
I used an ice pick for an awl,
a fish knife to carve finger holes,
and a scythe to shape the mouthpiece.

I had my flutes.

*
When the War came,
I told myself I lost nothing.

My land, which was barren,
was not actually mine but leased
(we could not own property)
and the shacks didn’t matter.

What did were the power lines nearby
and that sabotage was suspected.

What mattered to me
were the flutes I burned
in a small fire
by the bath house.

*
All through Relocation,
in the desert where they put us,
at night when the stars talked
and the sky came down
and drummed against the mesas,
I could hear my flutes
wail like fists of wind
whistling through the barracks.
I came out of Camp,
a blanket slung over my shoulder,
found land next to this swamp,
planted strawberries and beanplants,
planted the dwarf pines and tended them,
got rich enough to quit
and leave things alone,
let the ditches clog with silt again
and the bamboo grow thick as history.

*
So, when it’s bad now,
when I can’t remember what’s lost
and all I have for the world to take
means nothing,
I go out back of the greenhouse
at the far end of my land
where the grasses go wild
and the arroyos come up
with cat’s-claw and giant dahlias,
where the children of my neighbors
consult with the wise heads
of sunflowers, huge against the sky,
where the rivers of weather
and the charred ghosts of old melodies
converge to flood my land
and sustain the one thicket
of memory that calls for me
to come and sit
among the tall canes
and shape full-throated songs
out of wind, out of bamboo,
out of a voice
that only whispers.

Garrett Hongo, (1951- ) “Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi,” in Yellow Light © 1982 by Garrett Hongo, published by Wesleyan University Press.
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Mastery does not lay in the mastery of technique, but in penetrating the heart of the music. However, he who has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the heart of the music.
~ Hisamatsu Fûyô
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Iain Bankson
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Localisation: Mississippi, USA

PostPosted: 2012-06-23, 03:53    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem Reply with quote

That really is so sad, and so beautiful. Thank you very much for sharing it. I've bookmarked this page. Smile
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"Do not only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets. For it and knowledge can raise man to the divine."-Ludwig Von Beethoven
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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Localisation: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

PostPosted: 2012-06-24, 06:50    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem Reply with quote

Thanks Rick, great contribution! We could use more of this stuff!
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Perry Yung
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Joined: 22 Mar 2011
Posts: 346
Localisation: New York City, UWS

PostPosted: 2012-06-24, 16:44    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem Reply with quote

Iain Bankson wrote:
That really is so sad, and so beautiful. Thank you very much for sharing it. I've bookmarked this page. Smile


The sad thing is the reality that immigrants of color face, in the past and in the present. The beautiful thing is that people can always look to their heritage for solace. The sad thing is that identifying with ethnicity can often times prevent assimilation or mainstream acceptance. The beautiful thing is that artists like Garrett Hongo remind us that we all came from somewhere. The sad thing is...

Great art is complex, ironic, speaks on many level and continues to reverberates over time.

Yes, thanks Rick for posting this. I studied the poems of Hongo along with other Asian American writers and artists when I was doing my Asian American Studies minor. There is a consistent theme of the being the "other" and never being fully accepted into mainstream society. They greatly influenced my own work with the SLANT Performance Group.

A deep bow, Perry
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Blog on shakuhachi, art and parenting - www.yungflutes.com
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Rick Riekert
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Localisation: Long Island, NY

PostPosted: 2012-06-24, 17:32    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem Reply with quote

Here’s another fine shakuhachi poem by the American poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Mr. Komunyakaa, a native of Louisiana, has taught at Princeton University and is presently living in New York City and teaching at NYU. He is the recipient of the 2011 Wallace Stevens award. “Ode to the Shakuhachi" is from the collection “The Chameleon Couch:Poems”, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Ode to the Shakuhachi

By Yusef Komunyakaa

You call till the dead rise
with a flutter of the tongue,
crying & laughing in one note.
Five mouth-holes—four in front
& one in back—you are octaves
cut into a lank of bamboo.
You are more than a tube
the brain tooled to incant
across the maddening abyss,
more than wind through leaves,
or oaths whispered to gods.
“The Sound of Deer Calling
to One Another” says each moan
is a credo begged through reed.
Your mind’s naked weather
blows across the breath holes,
& Basho’s Narrow Road
to the Far North forks into
a familiar footpath. You say
everything never said before,
& day rises out of blood
the moon left on wet stones.
Listen closely. Hear every last,
slow, bold, quick sensation
shaken from writhing wood
a heart may fix itself on.
You are a plead prying itself loose,
till there's a wingtip.
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Mastery does not lay in the mastery of technique, but in penetrating the heart of the music. However, he who has not mastered the technique will not penetrate the heart of the music.
~ Hisamatsu Fûyô
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PostPosted: Today at 20:46    Post subject: Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi- A Poem

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