Poetry and Essays:
Anisur Rahman Apu
Masudol Hassan Rony
Bhuiyan Ahasan Habib
Letters to the Editor:
Azad Kashmir Zaman
Saidur Rahman Milon
Mia Barkan Clarke
BRIDGING THE WATERS
An International Bilingual Poetry Anthology
This anthology was co-published by Korean Expatriate Literature and Cross-Cultural Communications in the spring of 2013, including poetry by 15 American poets, 20 international poets, 24 Korean-American poets, and 16 Korean poets, 75 poets in total. It is very significant that the book has been published through the cooperation of American poets, Korean poets in America, and Korean poets in Korea.
Yoon-Ho Cho, one of the co-editors, writes in his Foreword: “The globalization of Korean Literature is an important task for Korean writers to accomplish.” He goes on to say, “To this end, we may consider the quality of Korean literary works, the excellence of translations, and literary exchange with the writers of the world.” This anthology has poems of different styles and subjects by international poets of different backgrounds. There are some difficult poems for me, but let me introduce some poems I thought interesting.
First, I’ll quote “An Imitation of Ancient Songs” by an American poet, Arthur Dobrin.
Every word I write is borrowed, / Taken from the flowing pen of poets– / Tu Fu’s loud tragic music,/Buson’s chrysanthemums so happy, so precious– / An imitation of ancient songs,/An original reconstruction/ Like clay soldiers in the Xian museum/ Or the Kyoto temple razed and built again/ Just as we, wife in four decades,/ Are made over and over./ Always ourselves and always/ What others have made of us/ What we have made from each other.
Next, let me quote “When God Is Dead,” by an international poet, Hassanal Abdullah:
When God is dead/ I will swim in the river./ I will play football/ And get a lot of fans/ To cheer for it.// When God is dead/ I will climb the big tree up/ In Forest Park/ Near my house/ And kill all the squirrels/ To save my garden full of vegetables.// When God is dead/ I will eat a tuna fish sandwich/ And five fried cockroaches/ As a side order/ And ask you guys to rethink/ About Moses, Jesus,/ Mohammed, and Krishna/ For whom you have been killing/ Each other for centuries.// When God is dead/ I will stop writing poems/ And believe me, my lady,/ I will be in a bed with you/ For three consecutive days and nights/ And we’ll never be separated.
By the way, my being included among the 20 international poets in this anthology is perhaps due to the intention of the American editor, Stanley Barkan. Stanley Barkan was the president of the 5th World Congress of Poets for Poetry Research and Recitation held in New York in December 2004, which I attended. Ever since that time, I have been in touch with him, exchanging mails and books. He is an active poet and the owner of the publishing house, Cross-Cultural Communications. He has been publishing translations of poetry of Korea, Iran, India, and other countries. He has published Your Lover’s Beloved, a collection of 51 love poems by the famous 14th- century Persian poet, Hafez, translated by Mahmood Karimi-Hakak and Bill Wolak. Poems by the co-translators of the Hafez book are also included in this anthology. This anthology includes two poems of mine, “Summer on the Home Island” and “An Artist’s Apology to His Daughter.” I always write poetry in English, rather than Japanese. Here I’d like to quote the shorter of the two, “Summer on the Home Island.” The poem was first printed in an American poetry magazine, “Poems of the World” and then reprinted in the school textbook anthology, Galaxies II by Addison-Wesley of Canada.
The man stops his bicycle/ on the hillside road// that runs through/ the sugarcane fields// and he gets off the bicycle/ and takes off his sandals// to feel the texture/ of his home island’s earth// to feel the warmth of the earth/ heated by his home island’s sun// with his bare unshod feet/ with his free naked heart// looking over the hill/ listening to the sound of the sea
Incidentally, when I received a letter from the publisher in Canada, asking for my permission to use the poem in their textbook, I was surprised, because it was hard for me to understand why the textbook editor of a huge country whose wheat fields stretch as far as its horizon could find a poem written by a poet on a tiny island which is just 30 miles around interesting. Then I realized a poem is something that can reach a distant place thousands of miles away, across oceans and mountains. This international poetry anthology has a photo and biographical notes in English and Korean for each poet included. As for my publication, I mentioned Like Underground Water: The Poetry of Mid-Twentieth Century Japan (1995) co-translated with Edward Lueders. In the biographical notes, I presumptuously dubbed myself “a talented dancer of his Amami dance.” Recently such singers as Chitose Hajime and Kosuke Atari have the Amami Islands talked about on television, but I may have wanted to get our Amami Islands a bit better known to the world by mentioning my Amami dance. I sometimes attend the World Congress of Poets held by the United Poets Laureate International based in California. And at the final “Sayonara Dinner Party,” I usually perform my Amami dance, asking all the poets to stand up and dance, imitating the way I dance. In 2002, we had a WCP conference in Bangkok presided by Puntalee Jirathun, and I remember her saying at a poetry reading session, “Koriyama, you don’t have to read your poems. We will sing ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ and you dance!” Singing and dancing are the roots of humankind’s arts. Even in ancient Greece and Japan in the age of the gods, singing and dancing expressed the joys of the human heart.
Now, let me quote a poem, “Love Is the Bonfire,” by Yoon-Ho Cho:
The campfire burns scarlet/ Winter night—/ At a time when the world is frozen.// Flames dart in and out/ Like the tongue of a blade/ And burn, unifying heart and heart.// Two logs/ Mutually lean/ Without burdening the other.//Instead they freely burn/ Each other’s heavy burden/ And become flames of beautiful love.
Next, I’ll quote a poem, “At the Forest Path,” by Tae Hoon Kang, a poet in Korea:
The cedar forest where the warbler sings—/ why are the trees only straight lines?/ Lone path winding and winding,/ The sound of the forest flowing like a melody./ The forest is a dream land/ that rises like shimmering heat./ The forest, where a strong fragrance dwells,/ The forest, the roost of life,/ looking lonely/ when the weary wind sits down/ but wordlessly holding in abundance/ love that gives.
Finally, I’d like to explain why I write poetry in English, not in Japanese. Around 1952, when I was a student at the New York State College for Teachers at Albany, my English teacher, Miss Vivian Hopkins, suggested that I write poetry. Ever since that time, I’ve been writing poetry in English. Since I started writing poetry in English, the custom of writing in English has been formed. And it’s not so difficult for me to write in English. By the way, at a party when I was still teaching at Toyo University, I once said to a prominent Japanese scholar of English literature, “I’ve been writing poetry in English.” And he instantly said to me, “You should write in Japanese.” But if I had followed his advice and had written poetry in Japanese, my poems would never have been included in this anthology. Even if I had written poetry in Japanese voluminously, my poems would never have been included in school textbooks in Japan, because I am not famous in Japan. But why are poems written by me, a nameless poet in Japan, reprinted in school textbooks in countries in the English-speaking world? It’s rather a mystery to me. Because I’ve been writing in English, some of my poems are used in some 26 textbooks at primary school, junior high, and senior high school levels in America, Canada, Australia, and South Africa. Especially, “Unfolding Bud” and “A Loaf of Poetry” are widely used. On the Internet here was an item, “List of Best 21 Poems about Poetry for National Poetry Month.” For instance, “Poetry” by Pablo Neruda of Chili was third, “Poetry” by Tagore sixth, “The Joy of Writing” by Wislawa Szymborska ninth, “Notes on the Art of Poetry” by Dylan Thomas nineteenth, and “A Loaf of Poetry” by me twentieth, in the list. And to my disappointment, the item has recently been erased on the Internet. “A Loaf of Poetry” was reprinted in “Korean Expatriate Literature” of 2012. Since BRIDGING THE WATERS is a bilingual anthology in English and Korean, it must be interesting to those who are interested in the poetry of Korea and America and the Korean people living in Japan.
BRIDGING THE WATERS : An International Bilingual Poetry Anthology, co-edited by Yoon-Ho Cho and Stanley H. Barkan, co-published by Korean Expatriate Literature and Cross-Cultural Communications(New York, 2013) $20 in U.S.: 20,000won in Korea.
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