Thursday, July 30, 2009

Writing Carrier

I received a couple of emails that asked, “How do you learn writing in a second language?” “How do you study writing?” and “Why do you write in English?”


As most of my blog readers already know, I am native Japanese. I prefer reading, writing, and speaking in Japanese. I am funnier and smarter when I am using Japanese instead of English, which I secretly believe in front of a mirror of a public bathroom saying, “I love being Japanese;” however, there is no evidence to prove how well I am representing the nationality through my own intelligence.

Of course I like using my native language more than using English because I can keep a tempo when speaking. I mean that I do not have to worry about using correct pronunciations, grammars, phrases, and punctuations because my first language is undoubtedly more natural to me. Even though most Japanese children start studying English in their elementary schools and my mother spent decent amounts of money (she might be able to enjoy driving at least three German cars instead) toward my English education since I am five, native Japanese speakers obviously have difficulties mastering this second language of English.

In addition, I would like to reason that I actually have stared studying academic English since I was eighteen. I remembered that I was shocked upon my exposure to learning advanced English at Nanzan Junior College in Japan. The college curriculums follow the western style of education and most professors come from foreign countries. From that point on I was learning how to think and write like a native speaker of English. And then I realized that I like writing English because it is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. There are many differences between writing in English and Japanese; however, one big difference is that English sentences must be logical and organized, unlike ones written in Japanese. The ambiguity of Japanese writing structure makes it more poetic, though it results in most papers lacking a clear thesis sentence or stated point.

So I decided to take classes for six years at Indiana University South Bend, resulting in a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English; just because I wanted to write like a native English speaker; or maybe just because I like a challenge that seems to be impossible to achieve.

I can clearly say that academic degrees are not necessary to communicate with international people in English. There are many excellent English language schools in America and it should be enough for learning English communication skills including speaking, writing, and reading. Therefore, the degrees may be just for showing off own academic achievements in America, “Hello my name is Naoko. I am from Japan and have a master’s degree in English; nice to meet you.” Meanwhile, I think that if I can achieve the degrees, everyone can do so as well.

The degrees have power to impress people if I tell them. I still have conflicts when ordering sandwiches, hamburgers, and coffees at fast food restaurants. “Sweetie, excuse me, what did you order? C a n y o u t e l l m e a g a i n?” It always happens.

Moreover, earning two degrees took six years with horrible grades and stressful moments in academia. I met various types of professors and students in the English department alone. Some professors and students are absolutely against my desire of writing in English because they believe while a foreign student can obtain an English degree—she does not always use appropriate English, she does not understand certain words, she does not make a clear point in thesis papers, and she does not know Twizzler. However, I conclude that it does not matter what the professors and other students think about my foreign status because graduation is not a goal for writing like a writer anyway.

Only I can say with confidence that I was very lucky in my early stage of being a writer because there were a few professors and friends who truly believed in my ability to write then. And I also understand that I am no longer a baby blue bird in a nest, eating regurgitated worms from a mother that was shot by the hillbilly neighbor’s BB gun earlier in the day. I need to learn how to fly by my own wings now.

So I am excited to teach writing classes at Ivy Technical College and Japanese language classes at Indiana University South Bend this fall (I am still waiting for my working visa, though). All I want to say to the American people who sent me those emails: “You can legally work in America and have the ability to use appropriate English, write whatever you want, and submit those stories! Rejections? Welcome to my world.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


It is time to write something new. I recycled old drafts and copies of my poetry this afternoon. Aaron helped me to carry three big trash bags to the recycle station during the storm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Meadowsweet Koikokoro" has been selected for publication in Gargoyle Magazine.

***
MEADOWSWEET, KOI KOKORO

1
Like miterwort in the water-filled
blue kitchen sink.....I’m lonely.

2.
..........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.

3.
.....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 stroke.....like 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.

4.
..........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.

5.
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.

Friday, July 10, 2009






For the first time, I would have to use marker to erase my whiteout. This book contains 50 stories of Empty Suitcase, a special edition of Overstuffed Suitcase (by Aaron Kasza), and other articles that I wrote for the Preface. Two years commitment was done this May 2009 to make this book not so empty. This book is available in my apartment for viewing only, behind bullet proof glass, and laser trip mines.