Sunday, March 13, 2011

Big Wave and the Tokai Earthquake


In this post, I include the image of a well known work of art by Hokusai (1760-1849).

The title of the painting is “The big Wave off Tanagawa” and is likely an artistic rendition of a tsunami. 

I have looked up Tanagawa on the map of Japan; it is close to Yokohama - far  from the epicenter of the earthquake that has occurred on March 11th. 

An article in a CNN blog talks of the Tokai earthquake, a devastating earthquake that occurs in Japan every 100-150 years, whose epicenter is situated in the Tokai region – not far from Tanagawa (where Hokusai places his “big wave”/tsunami). 

It’s a different epicenter from the one that caused havoc last Friday, an epicenter that is activated on a somewhat predictable  timeline: 1498, 1605, 1707, 1854….…every 100-150 years... the last one to occur five years after Hokusai’s death,  the next one -  still to be determined.
 
Did Hokusai learn of the tsunami from his ancestors, or did he witness such an occurrence first hand following seismic events in the area?
 
I’ve always admired this painting for what I thought it was: an imaginative and odd drawing, a somewhat exotic and deliberate creation.
 
Little did I know that I would come to look upon it as the essence of this week’s occurrences: Mount Fuji in the backdrop (the symbol of Japan and its people)  the surge of surreal walls of water, one more menacing than the other. Most tellingly, the waves appear to have sharp claws
Ready to rend and to grab everything.
 
As for poetry - Jim has posted a poem on the events in Japan as a reply to an earlier post

I found a link on classical Japanese poetry on the net, and I would like to share it:-->link
 
And here is a question from one of the poems, that its author asks and answers here:

“Our life in this world -
to what shall I compare it?”
 
Poetry, unlike earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear accidents, has no overwhelming force.
 
It’s all made of words.

Japan

I have been watching, just like everyone else,  the images of the disaster in Japan in what continues to remain a very dynamic and heart-wrenching situation. 

Entire communities wiped off the face of the earth; survivors and rescuers who have to cope with what can't be easily coped with; a trauma without boundaries, whose  unknown effects begin to unravel now.

Being part of this reality is an act of heroism in itself -  any attempt to help others when one's own life is in danger is a gesture of infinite courage.

It's difficult to think of poetry under the circumstances, or indeed  think of anything else except wishing for a positive evolution of events in the upcoming days. Except thinking of the people of Japan, at the time when everyone wishes them strong. 


They are in my thoughts.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Antiques Store



Harlequin Rose 

Why the quietude?
Inside the antiques store our images whirl around oblong frames, congregating
on edges of plants – a topiary that attaches itself to thin wires.

Pods, stems, and cones
in dried flower arrangements.

Against porcelain.

Against the cool, almost resonant & transparent mood of the penumbra
where our fingers are laced through
as we hold a cup against the specter of the sun.

Our fingers crawl, clad in kaolin, & expect you 
to be the shelter of this transparency, the holder of the harlequin rose,

each diamond a fixed shadow against the nettling of its hues.

And the moment shepherds us through the blossoming
of a  frugal resonance, as we bring the cup to our lips

- a compass over a silence where no petal is due. 


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