Spirits Rising: ひろしま / hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako
January 18, 2020 – March 15, 2020 / Garden Hours
Location: Pavilion Gallery & Tanabe Gallery

Portland Japanese Garden is commemorating 2020 as the Year of Peace in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Throughout the year, the Garden will be taking the opportunity to stimulate conversation and facilitate thoughtful discussions on the importance of cultivating peace and cross-cultural understanding.
This exhibition will include a selection of the internationally acclaimed photographer’s monumental ひろしま / Hiroshima series, documenting cherished items and clothing left behind by victims of the atomic bomb detonated in Hiroshima at the close of World War II that are now housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

U wrote this haibun two years ago, in Japan:

today it’s just a station
on the bullet train

Or, more than that, it’s a lovely city with great food and shopping. I don’t know why I expected it to be frozen in the past, a smoking ruin. That’s as foolish as expecting to be met by Puritans in black hats at Boston’s Logan Airport. Still, it is a pilgrimage, different than a Tokyo neighborhood of food stalls or the earthly delights of Hakata Station in Fukuoka. We get an AirBnB near the Peace Park.
Everything is an adventure. This is Japan, after all, and I’m traveling with my daughter and son-in-law. I adore them, but they are millennials, and different than me. Three futons are laid out, and we all sleep in one room. I could never have done that with my own mother.

Peace Park
a twig broom sweeps
the wind

One of the more upsetting pieces for me is a memorial to the girls’ school where the students died. Because Japan was still under occupied forces when it was built, the U.S. said that the sculptor could not reference the atom bomb by name in this plea for peace. So “atom bomb” is replaced with “E=mc squared.”

no sleeping
on park benches, pigeons,
the funeral mound

tailless black cat
on its own
mysterious errand

tourists weeping
and snapping
cell phone photos

A giant tortoise, memorializing Koreans, is surrounded by Japanese sparrows.

We’re from New Mexico. An hour from Los Alamos where the A-bomb was birthed, monstrous, into this world. And somehow I feel more implicated by this more than by being an American. Even though these events happened before I was born. But we talk about Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos as we enter the museum. And there are shocked to find not one mention of either name. No New Mexico. No father of the bomb. A great deal of accurate and interesting history, and from the Japanese perspective. Melted roof tiles. Photographs of disastrous ruin. But not our own guilt terrain.
I feel I need to apologize to someone but nothing here demands apology. Instead, the greatest focus is on peace.
At the neighborhood shrine after I bow and drop my coins in the box I’m surprised to have a Shinto priest appear and shake a branch tied with white cloth over my head. But I feel better. I can’t just leave the Peace Park and go looking for lunch without a transition.

the word for “gods”
and “paper”
sounds just the same

I buy
origami sheets to fold
cranes for a friend.

First Creative Moment by R. Soos

Mine is vivid because I was too young to realize it was “creative”. When I was 10, we had to write a poem for class. We had been reading Lear (The Owl And The Pussycat), of course, and some other poems. My poem was:

“I stuck my nose
in a rose
and a bee
kissed me.”

My teacher, Mrs. Clark, asked me to explain what I meant and I explained I was stung by a bee and made a poem out of it. She asked me why I used the word kissed when I could have said stung, and I explained I felt it was more positive, and it felt right. Mrs. Clark called me a “natural poet” & praised me in front of the whole class. Up to that time I had done nothing right with my life. That was a defining moment for me – I have considered myself a poet ever since, even though I had no idea at the time, and still have no idea what a poet is. That was 1965, and somehow we made it to 2020. My best guess about being a poet is – it’s a person who loves to share words with others =:-)


Finally re-doing them–just waiting for some paint…

Here is what I wrote a year ago:

Periodically I get the Marie Kondo fit and attempt to sort the bookshelves. I’ve been doing this for several decades. When my first husband Robert died he left many–many–books. About a hundred needed to be returned to the library! A few years ago I discovered some shelves were still double rowed. Obviously despite the passage of time and so much more I’m having trouble getting rid of his books.
However, I think it is finally sorted. There was one book, though, a fat book with a handmade cover of a Buddhist mandala. I was just keeping it because Robert made the cover. But what was inside? No doubt a mystifying tome of Indian philosophy. I opened it–for the first time ever–and found…THE ILIAD.
Which I’ll keep.

Ariel Gore interviews me about Bluebeard’s Castle

Ariel Gore asked me some questions about writing Bluebeard’s Castle for her experimental story structure students.

Which came first in this project . . . structure or content?
Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
Or did you have a structural idea and then write the content to fit that concept?
Or something else?
I guess the question is how and at what juncture(s) did you stop and map it out?

Somewhat paradoxically, Bluebeard began by my writing about my illness and hospitalization. I was really trying to write about it once and for all. I even went to Boston and did a series of private rituals for soul retrieval. But I kept being haunted by the fact that my father blamed me–and not just for that. That created a bridge to the Grand Canyon material–which set up a relationship to the Southwest, my home as an adult. At about this point I realized I had something. I also had a few flash memoirs, like the 9/11 piece. I started to fill in the holes–the most interesting was the family history of my grand-father, the garment industry, etc. Many of the poems were already written but uncollected–Firebird, Cossacks…sort of obsessional material. Then I did my father’s decline and death, soon after it happened, linked to Icelandic poems. So the three central sections were written in order. The “Psyche” poems had been written as a suite a few years before, and are a contrast–introspective, female, mythic.

So, basically yes–Did you have content and then build a structure to accommodate it then add the connective tissue?
I was about half way through before controlling the structure. I worked the whole book the way I would a single hybrid piece–listening for musicality and contrast, controlling repetition, leaving some holes for ambiguity.

Larry Bell

Like so many modernists and contemporary visual artists he is profoundly associated with Taos. But also of course L.A. I didn’t know t before I came to New Mexico, but I’ve looked now for thirty-five year years. And started to see more and more subtle details.

Enjoy this thoughtful article:

I don’t know why I work. I do the things that I do because I enjoy the questions. I don’t need to think of the things that I do as art. I think of them as evidence of some kind of investigation. The investigation in general has been, if anything, the study of the interface of light and surface. The evidence has been a lot of different things.

Larry Bell


Interview with Simon Perchik

Library Journal called him the most widely published unknown poet. However, I’ve followed Simon Perchik’s poetry for decades. His newest book, THE ROSENBLUM POEMS (Cholla Needles), is 140 poems written in triplets.

This coffee is still learning, spills
sweetens night after night
the way fireflies flavor their legs

then wait for the rippling hum

that’s not a bat

And, one of my favorites:

You keep the limp, stoop
the way this cane
lets you pretend its wood

can heal

At almost a century old, Perchik’s work certainly deals with aging, but most deeply with perception. Those triplets give me, as a reader, a sense of motion, uncertainty, even possibility.

Miriam’s Well is very happy to have an interview from the poet that answers the blogs usual three questions:

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?

1. Enjambment is an important concern for me.The line should have a feel so that it’s not just chopped-up prose with wide margins. Not only the reader’s breath must be considered but surprise and the tension so necessary to the text.
2. If there is a relationship I’m not aware of it. I do know that in the process of writing I often find myself agitated and often find my heart beating faster and louder. I just consider that a cost of doing business.
3. I’ve never considered myself a poet; just someone who writes poetry. In fact, except for a few close friends I never told people I wrote poetry. I think the title “poet” is something others call you, not something you call yourself by.