Ryuta Imafuku: Ode for Jerry in Lorca’s Mood

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:22 AM
Dear Jerry,
Mi estimado Gerónimo,

You began with olive trees.
Then I’ll begin with banyan trees
full of aerial prop roots hanging from their knotty branches.

You began with eclipse and insomnia.
Then I’ll begin with crescent and lunacy.
A southern sea lunacy
which induces us into the sueño
of our aquatic origin
of our archipelagic genesis.

Your Lorca’s Spain is blue and gray
Gray is your unique discovery in Lorca’s kingdom.
If you stick to the gray with an “a”
Then I’ll go with the grey with an “e”
An Irish grey hue with an “e”
As Michael always wrote it.

I’ll tell you a fragment of my recent journey
to the southern island of Kakeroma, Amami
where I met an Okinawan poet
and with him I had an improvised poetry reading session together.
His name is Shinichi Kawamitsu
obviously it tells you that he is originally from Miyako island.
One of the native islands of the old Ayagu
A delicate mode of poetic chanting in the Ryukyu islands.
Kawamitsu who is an exile from the island and its native tongue
Uses his own pidgin, a unique mixture of Miyako, Okinawa, Yamato and universal literary and ideological idioms.

We called and responded under the Banyan trees.
I was carrying in my mouth another voice from another island
Irland is the voice’s country
Michael Hartnett is the voice’s name
He wrote poems first in English and then solely in Gaelic
He declared he was going to the territory of meagre voice
With little weeping
To court the language of his own people.
A farewell to English,
Silent, modest announcement, but big, almost fatal decision.

Hartnett wrote:

I say farewell to English verse,
To those I found in English nets:
My Lorca holding out his arms
To love the beauty of his bullets,
Pasternak who outlived Stalin
And died because of lesser beasts;
to all the poets I have loved
from Wyatt to Robert Browning;
to Father Hopkins in his crowded grave
and to our bugbear Mr Yeats
who forced us into exile on islands of bad verse ...

In Kakeroma island
Kawamistu also chanted in Miyako dialect
Returning to the language of his people
But remembering his young devotion to Lorca in mind
With deep sympathy to the other exiled being Lorca conjured:
Gypsy people.

You, Lorca!

Passing through the winter ice of the north mountains,
and through the folds of closed hearts of the people,
Your mother finally reached
The Granada hill with its olive scent.
Lorca,
You never trace her footmarks.
Lorca,
You are a child of a Gypsy
Born from the prairie breeze.
You are the blue mark of meteorite,
But you never feel bitter against your mother.
You, a bastardo of a Gypsy.


Tonight, I have brought here three interpretations, three essential transcreations, three amazing, wild echoes of Federico Garcia Lorca.
One by a Black American Poetic giant Langston Hughes, another by an Irish enigmatic natural-born poet Michael Hartnett, and still another incredible re-interpretation/creative composition by our great mentor Jerome Rothenberg: The Lorca Variations.

As you say, The Lorca Variations is a series of experimental poetic compositions based on Lorca’s vocabulary, especially nouns and adjectives, and you mixed with your own verbs and adverbs to it. The result is that these poems both are and aren’t Jerry’s, both are & aren’t Lorca.
What a nice, wonderful abandonment of the notion of pure, centralized voice.
If I use the word I coined
An “abundancing” of the power of language.
Let me read one of your amazing passages called “Backwaters”.

See him in ice & in pain
(mad Lorca)
sdee him in cypresses.
Dead in his eye,
In his tongue.
Stagnant water lies over him.
Poplars cut deep
& glass willows.
Water is locked in his heart.
In his eyeballs.
Dead air.
Metal branches.

What I want to add tonight is just another small Lorca Variation dedicated especially for you, Jerry.

I really don’t remember when I first discovered Lorca’s kingdom.
But I remember that I, at the age of 24, was already a pilgrim standing in front of the Fuente Grande, a big fountain along the road near the Andalucian village of Viznar, where Lorca was assasinated by Nationalist militia in August, 1936.

I was there without any fantasma, any magia, no.
No obsession with political ideas.
I was just haunted by his moon, his gypsies, his bewitched woman in St. James’ Eve, and his necklace of almonds.
His fireworks, his mirror visions, and his sky-inscribed palimpsests as you depicted.

I remember that it was the Easter of 1980 when the moors and christians were fighting in the town of Alcoy, Alicante, firing blanks everywhere.
I heard the shout “Reconquista!”
“Viva Sant Jordi!”

Then I went to the border town of Jerez de la Frontera
Looking for water and shadow
Dreaming the ecstacy of the stork.

Now I also begin with olive trees, as you did, Jerry
This fragment happened to appear before me
In a small island village of Oku
At the end of the narrow road to the interior of Okinawa
Where Basho trees, namely bananeros grow thick.
This fragment of wind called itself “Bluest Blues”:
At least I could hear so.

Bluest Blues

Round ridges of olivos
Billowing red slopes of sunlight
Andalucia!
Behind the rocks in the folds of the redgreen hills,
From their casa de cuevas,
I hear somebody speaking in a hoarse voice,
swinging
creaking
with the lowest possible heart beat,
I hear a dash of scream, gritos
Uno, dos.
The breath stopped.
And here begins your blue, bluest blues.
You gipsy, gitanos!
Your daybreak rushes into the twilight of the grey moon
Your dancing feet are stepping on the dead ancestor’s bones.
In the middle of an abyss of the clapping hands,
La Duende, the spirit of the muse, stands up and sings:
“Don’t rush toward the ilusory windmills!”
“Killing a mirage dragon won’t do any good!”
“Keep secret your fingertips that could touch the very heart of the heart of darkness!”
Silencio, silencio, silencio.
A hush falls over the blue, bluest blues
The land of the red soil becomes
filled with the blue, bluest ocean.

El fin de los shark’s fins.
The end of the ephemeral duende.

Granada
Jerez de la Frontera
Gibrartar
Pillars of Hercules
Pontevedra
Land’s end
Cork
Rimerick
Reykjavik
Spitzberg
Angmagsalik
Lomonosov Ridge
Cap desolation
Lieu de la naissance du language

Icebergs
Auroras

Yes, Jerry
I saw the amazing Aurora
on our trip to the source of Ishikari river, you remember?
Ish-kar, in ainu means:
“Making some beautiful thing out of bird feathers."
Along the serpentine water of Ish-kar
We went down to the mouth of the river
With our aurora of feather.
You and Diane remember that forever.

Lorca made some beautiful thing out of the breath and stomping from the Gypsy cavern
Out of the blind panorama of Nueva York
Out of the winding sugar cane road to Santiago de Cuba.
A creation of the grammer of the tawny tongue
Both his & not his, both mine & not mine.

Lorca’s kingdom is everywhere.
Spain, New York, Cuba, Irland, Miyako, Amami, Encinitas ......

Yes, as you know, the moon finally could stop at the snow-white curve where black horses all gather.
Jaguars, panthers, leopards, too.
You can hear them.
We hear them.

I realized, sitting on the opaque curve under the Banyan trees:

Voice is a genius.
With its rhymes and prosodies,
It has its own enegy inside.
Voice is now, and here.
Voice is nowhere, and everywhere.
Voice is, then it disappers.
That’s the nature of the voice.
Don’t record it.
Don’t make a CD from it.
DVD, CDR, MPEG, MP3, QuickTime...., nothing.
Voice is always present tense.
Voice is outstandingly hybrid as our reality is hybrid.
The more hybrid our tongue is
The more elegant & graceful our voice speaks.
Trembling
Squeaking
Agitating
Mumming
Splashing
This genius opens the horison of new verse.
A new variation of our blue-grey tongue.

Dedicated for & read in the presence of Jerome Rothenberg
Tokyo, 03/27/2010

[NOTE. My acquaintance with Ryuta Imafuku goes back a decade or so, to when he was a director of the Institute of Cultural Studies in Sapporo, Japan, and I was twice a guest there. It was renewed this March when he joined me and Keijiro Suga for a reading at Meiji University in Tokyo. Born in Tokyo and with extensive travels and research in Latin America, Imafuku is an anthropologist and cultural critic whose unique writings and voice on contemporary culture, art, history and politics are widely recognized in Japan and elsewhere. He is best known as one of the first Japanese writers and scholars to demonstrate what he calls a creolist vision of contemporary culture. His recent activities include the “archipelagic university” project in the Amami/Ryukyus Islands, and collaborations on books and exhibitions with Claude Lévi-Strauss, the poet Gozo Yoshimasu, filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha, and photographers Shomei Tomatsu and Sebastião Salgado. He is the author in addition of The Heterology of Culture, Technology of the Wild, Sensory Angels, The Eternal Dice: A Critic on Travel and Border Writing, Elsewhere: Toward the Corridor of Images, and Mínima Gracia: History and Craving, among others. Imafuku currently teaches Cultural Studies and Ethics at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and is a permanent visiting professor of Communication and Semiotics at the Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. References in his “Ode” are to my book, The Lorca Variations, published in 1993 by New Directions. (J.R.)]

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