Monday, May 25, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 6

"Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,
and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

The Literary Context Essay Part 1

The Literary Context Essay Part 2
The Literary Context Essay Part 3
The Literary Context Essay Part 4
The Literary Context Essay Part 5

I had formed the theme of my poem from Louise Gluck’s four sources of inspiration (dreams, images, ideas, and conflicts). That particular story came from my grandfather’s collection of personal writings that were found when my family cleaned his room after his death last November. This one story inspired me and I finished writing this poem by pulling other material from my four sources. My Japanese connections make my poems different from Gluck’s; however, they can become weak points if western readers do not find universal connections, something that Gluck’s material worked better with. In addition, “The early spring stars are painted with seventeen strokes” is a figurative reference to the failure of love or harmfulness of imperfect love. In the last stanza, I leave this line like Gluck left “the soul creeps out of the tree”. My speaker earlier said that a great love is like one stroke, so painting with too many strokes will create a failed love. However, the speaker, the speaker’s grandmother, and the surveyor have not found their perfect love in one stroke. For example, the speaker and her lover compound their love with many corrective measures, hiding what was once beautiful in the process. She grows to hate the result in the third section of the second version. Despite the external hardships that failed the love of the grandmother and surveyor, she arrived at the same destination on her own.

Gluck creates her poems by borrowing themes of mythology and combining them with inspirations from her dreams, images, ideas, and conflicts. She keeps her main point open ended for the sake of depth and drama. She leaves her poem to the readers to interpret and she gives the freedom of figurative interpretations to them like her last line of “All Hallows.” Following Gluck’s writing process, “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro” is inspired by my grandfather’s note after his death, a real experience. I connect his note with my images (on colors, flowers, and the speaker’s, her grandmother’s and surveyor’s relationships,) ideas/mythology (Japanese calligraphy and The Tale of Genji,) and conflicts (of imperfect love and personal desires). After a first draft, I revise the poem with creative decisions to balance the use of English and Japanese language to maximize the cultural context and personal influence. I also believe that the readers may have the freedom of figurative interpretation to read the last line and connect the three episodes through the opposing conflicts as they relate to them personally. I wrote “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro” for my thesis project and I have not shared it with readers yet. Therefore, it is exciting to see how the readers will respond and interpret the work, as I will remember their reactions and use that knowledge later in my writing career.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 5

"Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,
and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

The Literary Context Essay Part 1

The Literary Context Essay Part 2
The Literary Context Essay Part 3
The Literary Context Essay Part 4

Leaving more Japanese identity, I also adapted one experience I had with my grandmother, who is a professional calligrapher. She always said that calligraphy should be written in a single stroke because with the thin paper and special ink used, audiences will easily see double strokes and corrections in the work that detract from its value. In addition, a professional calligrapher makes her own consistency of ink (for example, she would use lighter, more diluted ink for a funeral letter and a darker, deeper ink for a congratulatory letter). My grandmother prohibits her students from writing important letters with ink before its consistency has been tested because the resulting hue may not be appropriate. As a miraculous consensus, the calligraphy process is similar to Genji’s idea of showing affection. Therefore, I combined the two sections to explain koi kokoro of a Japanese ancient story and my grandmother’s calligraphy episode because of their opposing conclusions about complexity and simplicity. I am satisfied about adapting the idea of a Japanese calligraphy brush because in the second and third sections from the first version, I wrote about Japanese calligraphy, its black ink, and brush. After many changing of lines and words, I corrected many grammatical and language problems from the first version. I changed “Covering colors and colors with a paint brush/ on the koi kokoro kills the art” for readers’ clear understanding in the second version. Writing about my grandfather’s fears in China and the speaker’s relationship challenges in America unified these episodes in the context of a conflict between Genji’s approach to love, which favors repetition and complexity, and my grandmother’s approach to art, which favors a single act of passion. This conflict and the context of the episodes narrated within the poem are intended to allow different interpretations from readers.

In the first section, the speaker leaves the first statement of this poem, “Like miterwort in the water-filled/ blue kitchen sink, I’m lonely.” Unlike the speaker’s grandmother (whose husband had passed away) and the surveyor (whose relationship is prohibited by race relations), the speaker has access to her lover. Yet, despite that, she is still unsatisfied. If I only focus on writing historical parts (my grandfather and surveyor’s war stories), the poem may become unattractive because those parts are too foreign to Western readers and they may not relate to the material. Therefore, I focused more on the loneliness of the speaker in the second version. Since the narrative is in first person perspective, the readers are exposed to the conflicts as if they were speaking them instead of hearing it from a third person. Even though the speaker had everything she wanted when she was seventeen—like waking up in a warm blanket with her lover on a peaceful morning—she is not happy. Her heart has never been completely filled, but partially filled long enough that she never acknowledged her loneliness as it grew. The speaker’s universal conflict is one of hiding their identity for security (physical or emotional). This is expressed in the narrative of the Japanese surveyor hiding his feet that were deformed by his wearing getas (traditional Japanese sandals) in his youth by binding them in the Chinese tradition.

Continue to The Literary Context Essay Part 6

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Break from Thesis Project

Aaron brought a nameless purple flower from a parking lot near the South Bend Airport.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 4

I would like to post what I am actually doing for my thesis project...

"Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,

and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

The Literary Context Essay Part 1
The Literary Context Essay Part 2

The Literary Context Essay Part 3


“Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro (the first version)” is my first attempt at applying Gluck’s formula for my own writing. Only I can write about personal experiences of listening to my grandparents who survived through World War II, the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, and extreme poverty after the war in China. In addition, I grew up in the industrial city of Nagoya, close to Kyoto. With the exception of Nagoya’s Tokugawa Museum, they city’s culture revolves around almost entirely industrial developments. So, unlike Kyoto, the premier site for Japanese art and history, or even Tokyo and Osaka, Nagoya has limited access to plays or art exhibitions that normally tour Japan. Therefore, my mother often took me to Kyoto to see Japanese traditional gardens, temples, and museums and I learned Japanese history and art with her. In addition, I have lived and traveled in many countries and my identity is mostly influenced by America, the Philippines, and Japan. Even with all that exposure, I still connect the most to The Tale of Genji, found within Nagoya’s own museum that used to be a tea ceremony house for Tokugawa Shogunate but now owns the original colored scroll of the tale.

In “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro,” I drew from a theme found in The Tale of Genji. The story, which was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the eighth century, is widely well-known in both Japanese and western cultures like the Christian mythology that Gluck uses. As a simple summary of the story, Genji is a son of the Emperor and Lady Kiritsubo, who dies during childbirth. Genji is born as a prince, but works for the government with the name of Genji. He is adored by the Emperor’s new wife, Princess Fujitsubo. She is a lot like his mother and she loves him like a younger brother. Because of this, their affections evolve beyond those normal of a mother and child and Genji decides to spend a night with her. Afterward, he has many love affairs in his search of someone like his mother, but his love for Princess Fujitsubo never dies.

I adapted the impact of Genji’s first broken heart and translated his miserable feelings into English using Seiko Tanabe’s The Tale of Genji, which was written in modern Japanese. (Tanabe is now one of the most famous Japanese scholars from her work on translating the story into modern Japanese. Most people cannot read the original text without notes and explanations of ancient Japanese.) At first, I translated Genji’s main conflict into English without poetic form. I wrote, “Even though I am covering with colors and colors of koi (love affection in Japanese,) the lover’s heart unfortunately will fade.” The direct translation may be hard for non-Japanese people to understand because Genji compares his love feeling with traditional lacquer ware. Japanese lacquer ware becomes of higher artistic quality if a craftsman varnishes it with several kinds of color coatings. Therefore, Genji approaches his affections like beautiful lacquer ware, believing that a woman should accept him as a lover because he impresses upon her many deeds of affection like an artist would adorn his lacquer ware with colorful coatings. However, Genji realizes through this that by working again and again for one’s love creates conflict as they created a complicated love triangle, with Fujitsubo between him and her husband. Adding layers and layers of color eventually makes a lacquer ware ugly, and his passes at Fujitsubo only had the same effect.

For the matter of poetic language, I changed the direct translation to “Covering with colors/ and colors of the koi kokoro kills the art” (the first version). This is where I work the language to create triggers for the atmosphere I want the reader to experience. I then balance details of the story’s theme with my own experiences, experimenting with both the Japanese and English languages along the way. In the second version, after I tried out many possibilities with both English and Japanese words, I decided to leave koi kokoro in Japanese because koi kokoro (koi is love and kokoro is a heart) sounds more romantic and dynamic because of the hard “k” sound. Japanese words add flavor and culture to my poems.

Continue to The Literary Context Essay Part 5

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 3

I would like to share what I am actually doing for my thesis project...

"Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,

and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

The Literary Context Essay Part 1
The Literary Context Essay Part 2

Gluck understands that the possibility of conflicting interpretations can generate some ambiguity in her poems, but she also knows that where there is conflict, there is a more energized engagement with the material. So, in that light, she enjoys laying the grounds for a multitude of interpretations, even conflicting ones, as she believes it creates deeper dramatic poetry after she carefully follows her four-step writing process.

In her essay book, Proofs and Theories, Gluck explains her process and how she chooses which images to invoke based upon a deeper understanding of their seemingly inherent biases held by readers. She wrote,

"I cultivated a capacity to study images and patterns of speech, to see, as objectively as possible, that ideas they embodied. Insofar as I was, obviously, the source of those dreams, those images, I could infer these ideas were mine, the embodied conflicts, mine. The longer I withheld conclusion, the more I saw. I was learning, I believe, how to write, as well: not to have a self which, in writing, is projected into images. And not, simply, to permit the production of images, a production unencumbered by mind, but to use the mind to explore the resonances of such images, to separate the shallow from the deep, and to choose the deep" (13).

The motivation by Louise Gluck is to invoke images that string together a narrative with holes, encouraging the reader to fill them in by reading further. In doing so, the reader chooses one interpretation of any given image over another, completing the process of communication between writer and reader. In her essay she also explains her four-step writing process. At first, she creates her poem from sources such as dreams, images, ideas, and conflicts. Next, she does not decide her poem’s direction immediately, so she holds her conclusion of poems and tries to investigate possible directions as she writes. In the meantime, she searches for perfect languages and images for the poem, and after careful considerations, her poem becomes the catalyst for a reader’s mind to add depth to the work from its own subconscious conclusions.

She does not clearly identify conflicts in her poems’ narratives, but uses themes and topics that in their own right claim conflicting attributes. In Elizabeth Frost’s essay, “Metaphysical Poets,” she wrote, “Gluck follows more squarely in the Western humanist tradition that insists that certain things are universal— and that the suffering is perhaps the most basic of them” (Frost 24). Gluck uses universal conflicts that people are familiar with; for example, in “All Hallows,” the speaker’s inner conflicts are that of being a woman and a mother. In one sense, being a woman in a male dominated society brings with it a multitude of challenges; while in another sense, a mother has the duel nature of childbirth and raising a family. The mere identity of the subject has in itself a multitude of conflicts, which Gluck uses to add tension to her poem without having to write out the conflicts in the narrative, allowing her to concentrate on the language and images she wishes to convey.

For example in “All Hallows,” readers have assumed that Gluck wrote about her own personal motherhood experiences through her husband’s absence. But the poem itself makes no mention of a husband, just the lone mother. There is no actual proof that Gluck wrote the poem based on her own experience of being in a pregnancy or staying in the countryside. It is possible she was inspired by the individual strength of a pregnant woman she had met for all people know. All the readers do know is that Gluck has a passion to express the conflicts of motherhood in the poem.

Continue to The Literary Context Essay Part 4

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 2

I would like to share with you what I am writing for my thesis project..."Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,
and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

This essay continues from The Literary Context Essay Part 1


In a collection of Gluck’s poems,
The House on Marchland, “All Hallows” is a good example to show how she utilizes Christian mythologies in her work. The poem has imagery of agriculture/ harvest, motherhood, and birth, which brings a happy but struggling biological process.

All Hallows

Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
Sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

The words such as “seeds,” “gold,” and “tree” remind me of Eve who shared the forbidden fruit with Adam in the Bible. Living in this world is difficult, like Adam and Eve found out after their banishment from Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. In the poem, I interpreted that a mother said “come here” to this world to her unborn child as if she is asking the child to taste the forbidden fruit. In addition, “The soul creeps out of the tree,” invokes in me the image of Raphael Sanzio’s painting “Adam and Eve”, which portrays the two standing by a tree with a snake-like creature watching from a branch above. The creature seems to be an ominous foreshadow of things to come after they partake in the fruit. Regardless, it can be interpreted from the poem “All Hallows” that because of the actions of those before it, a baby is cursed to live and suffer in this world.

“All Hallows” has also been interpreted as a metaphor for motherhood. In Diane S. Bonds’ essay, “Entering Language in Louise Gluck’s The House on Marshland: A Feminist Reading,” she wrote, “The imagery associated with cultivation and harvest— the yoked oxen, the sheaves, the cinquefoil, the moon— may serve as a figurative complex related to the theme of motherhood…‘the soul creeps out of the tree’ is a figurative reference to a literal child or relatively more literal term designating the soul of the woman” (Bonds 61). Gluck uses collections of metaphors assembled into a package for readers to decipher; in this way, Gluck uses the complex as a vehicle for readers to interpret her original message in ways that reflect their personal views. Therefore, Gluck’s message is interpreted by Bonds as saying mothers will suffer silently in a male dominated society, an idea that is reinforced in Margaret Homans’ Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing. Bonds further explains that women represent the silent, forgotten lifeblood of society. Gluck’s actual lines in her poem read, “This is the barrenness/ of harvest or pestilence,” and Bonds took them to mean natural and biological processes regarding harvesting and motherhood.

This is important because Louise Gluck reads her critics’ responses to determine how her work is being interpreted, and uses that understanding in future writings to decide what material to incorporate having known its possible impact upon readers. While Gluck was not interviewed directly for “All Hollows”, the message she intended to project in writing it could be argued to not coincide with either Bonds’ nor Homans’ ideologies, but the poem did resonate in their respective circles anyway, which proves the power of interpretation and the importance of understanding how to write in a way that invites much of it. This is an idea that I have taken very seriously and enjoy employing in my writing career.

Continue to The Literary Context Essay Part 3

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Literary Context Essay Part 1

Challenging Louise Gluck, Failing,
and Finding My Own Style in “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro”

Sinking Garden (a tentative title) will be the culmination of three years of poetry writing. This poetry is analogous with my growth in America after an upbringing in a very distant culture, Japan. This maturation is best shown through writing, which has been the centerpiece of my stay here as my studies have granted me a degree in English and set course for another one. While the contrast of cultures is what differentiates the focus of the work from other poets, it is the findings of my journey that reveal universal characteristics between them. It is these characteristics, represented through common, family based themes that provide relevance of the work to its readers. Three years has seen many developments, both in writing, and understanding of these universals, and the book Sinking Garden explores those findings in a collection of poetry. Within the body of works are different styles. Several authors have inspired my work, and after much research, I have found ways to define and categorize my poems to fit into the world of literature, adding an identity to it all that connects it to works abroad, but still allows the words of it to flow in a way that reflects my personal cultural understandings.

“Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro” is an experimental poem to follow Louise Gluck’s writing methods, learning from her poems and other scholars’ essays. Gluck is one of my favorite and most respected poets from the twentieth century. As a short reference, Gluck is a contemporary poet who was born in 1943 and her works are influenced by Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and T.S. Eliot, who established their poetry in the imagist movement of the early nineteenth century. Gluck creates her poems by using mythological Greek and Judeo-Christian themes to ignite her creative energies she finds from her life’s dreams, images, ideas, and conflicts. It is her goal to write poems open to many interpretations, as it is her belief that a work open only to one interpretation is lacking in artistic quality. In this open minded framework, she does not attach herself to any early idea, always entertaining the possibility of ditching foundational ideas of a work for something that flows into new ideas more easily. In this sense, it is the destination that is important to Gluck, not the journey. The product is flavored by her gift of using poetic language to instill story-like imagery, but her challenge as a writer is to choose the best sources to draw from in the right combination to achieve the most potent results.

My poems are inspired by personal Western and Asian cultural experiences. After revising a poem many times, my creative decisions are carefully made by my choice of English and Japanese descriptions to instill the most powerful images in readers. Like Gluck’s poems, “Meadowsweet, Koi Kokoro,” identifies as figurative and confessional poetry with images as I tried to evoke Japanese ancient literature, The Tale of Genji, and weave it into those themes.

Continue to the Literary Context Essay Part 2

(The Second Version)

Like miterwort in the water-filled
blue kitchen sink,.....I’m lonely.

..........Every summer, my grandfather wore
geta-slippers, so there was a gap
between his big toes and the others.

He kept telling me the same story. He sold
cloth and met a surveyor in China, 1944…

.....Meadowsweet in a Japanese room.

I still can hear his voice in cold January wind
when stars flood with blue campanula mornings.

You turn in a bed.

I feel your warm feet
in the white cotton bedspread.

The warmth,.....I wanted it when I was seventeen.

.....After forty-nine days of mourning,
my grandmother sent me a poem
written in an India ink stick rubbed on an inkstone.

“I couldn’t write my koi kokoro to test the ink for color.”

Koi kokoro is love
written with a single Japanese calligraphy.

Covering colors and colors with a paint brush
on the koi kokoro kills the art.

You must be taught to love me in that way.

But you leave
wet paints on my koi kokoro.

Purple with yellow dots,.....I hate them.

..........The surveyor had a bound foot
because he wore geta-slippers when he was young.

Deep blue maple forests and meadowsweet in his mind…

but he was afraid of showing his Japanese feet in China.

.....When my grandfather died,
my grandmother dressed him in white clothes.

but she couldn’t put him in socks......His toes were too Japanese.

After the funeral,
she wears his socks when she goes to bed.

She wants the warmth that I have.

Crystal-clear February ice......I shout,

“Don’t ask me to make love when I write,”
then break every tea cup in the sink.

..........In my grandfather’s diary,
the surveyor fell in love with a Chinese nurse.

She rubbed his foot
under the ink-blotting sky. The early

spring stars are painted with seventeen strokes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Original art containing illustration of the names of contributing artists & writers and cover photograph from 2009 Analecta have been given to Amy Pfifferling-Irons and Glenn Lyvers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

IU South Bend Graduation 2009
M.A. in English

I would like to thank you; my parents, family, and friends. My family was unfortunetly could not join the ceremoney this time; however, I am deeply moved my heart by people who cheered me during the commencement.
Charmi had poems accepted by The Dirty Napkin and Passages North!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I recently created an art blog ,"WHITE THINGS." The blog title is named after a short story about my favorite white things, which is written in 2007. (The story is available in 2007 Analecta edited by Talia Reed at IU South Bend, English Department.) Of course, I will keep "Word Paint" for my poetry and writing events.

Please welcome to the very white, imperfect blog.

P.S. I will update favorite links as soon as possible. I lost them due to my lacking knowledge of HTML...Oh well.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer Art Project

Summer Art Project
White Love Frame by n.f.

Friday, May 8, 2009

I received a generous prize from 2009 Lester M. Wolfson Literary Award, so I decided to see a musical, Merry Poppins, with my proofreader, Amanda G.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Summer Art Project

Summer Art Project
--My Wedding Flower Fund--
Pink Cork Board Designed, Painted, and Constructed by Naoko Fujimoto

Monday, May 4, 2009

"A Pianist," "February," and "Eyelashes, Four" are accepted by Passages North!


I hear a minuet. My cat sleeps on a couch.
A pianist plays Le Tombeau de Couperin.

Ravel composed it for his friends.
They died in World War I.

She hums the phrase and whispers to me,
“Funerals two thousand times in my country.”

Home: Pieces of blocks
under the soldiers’ boots in her smallest

country, Georgia. No place to return. Refugee:
other people call her. Her cousins went to war.

“Where are the all caskets?” I ask her.

She keeps playing the minuet with a metronome
and its short repeated sound.

All the corpses are hidden under the borderline
like spring water: blood.

A withered gerbera on the piano.

There is no graveyard for prayer.
She cannot cry in front of it.

I say, “I bought a cup of tea and blueberries.”

She huddles the warm
cup and picks up a blueberry. It lightly rolls

down the table to the floor.
The cat plays with a cricket

pulling off its leg.



I press my forehead on the window
at ten minutes before February

my eyelids close
I smell a crocus in a cloche

my vein pulses like nodding ferns
it is the bluest breeze on the street where you live

bulbous buttercups and soft hay
in your wrangling night

When the whitest star avalanches on me
from the branch of an elm tree

I no longer conceal my love
under the sod

a dandelion and its coloring
the stem reaches out to a swallowtail

like a sudden flooding of water
in a dry well

and apple cider
those adolescent drips

My fingertips trace wrinkles around your mouth
you finally drowse

A wild horse
plunges through midnight in an early spring.



crashes onto my eyelashes;

a million.....leaping waves into the sky.

A white basin clogs
then I see your headlights from the window.

I need more salt;

enough salt for cleansing my hands
.....and my body.

Water is still running.....running from the spigot.

Tonight, you take me from the rusty place
.....and your blue wagon parks by the creek.

Cold.....June night breezes stroke my eyelashes
then gray beardtongue’s leaves make my ears flame.

My eyelashes.....branch out to the sky.

Their tips tangle with Orion’s Belt
.....and turn into early summer.....seaside gentians.

I hear laughter from a cracked spigot
then I wash my hands with salt.....with a lot of salt.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Analecta Cover Photographer: Ashley Hartsough’s Art Exhibition
IU South Bend Library, 5th floor, May 1 – 31