It takes a while to realize that the tremendous news of (drum tremolos, please) my work, "Lake Michigan", will be published in Poetry Magazine. I feel like I am at the top of the world right now.
“I Eat Pig Ears in Cebu” was written after a true event. Naoko Fujimoto stayed in a small village in the Philippines when she studied abroad from Nanzan Junior College. She served as a volunteer worker for a non-profit organization supported by the University of San Carlos.
The village descended from leprosy patients, which resulted in the young children suffering social prejudices. The village was poor, and most children did not receive education past elementary school.
Fujimoto met one young girl who was very good at math, but was always late for classes. Once she visited the girl’s home to find her doing laundry. This was the girl’s job, and she could not leave until she was finished, resulting in her lateness. Fujimoto cared for the girl like a young sister while she stayed in the village. Many unfortunate realities and problems existed in this developing society, and it was an influential moment in her life.
On the morning of her nineteenth birthday, the children gave Fujimoto armfuls of mangos, one by one. Their flavor was memorable, and she grew a fondness for mangos and Filipino food. That evening the villagers cooked for her an entire roasted pig. She had never seen such a gigantic pig rotating over a fire, it was the most fantastic birthday she ever had. Then her instructor said, “You have to bite the pig ear. It is delicacy”. The ear was grilled well (maybe fried), yellow and crisp looking. She chewed on it and some people cheered.
Later, Fujimoto shared this experience with Angela Narciso Torres, who was originally from the Philippines. She decided to weave Narciso Torres’ cover art into a collaborative work with an original poem.
C. Dale Young wrote about Narciso Torres’ Blood Orange, “the landscape of family, which in the end is the god we really pray to when we are restless.” She wrote about her father and mother in the Philippines, and about her family and children in the U.S, which also contributed depth to the graphic poem.
Audiences will see strips of the cover of “Blood Orange” and Narciso Torres’ original idea of her cover art designed by Matthew Torres. The mysterious woman’s eyes were shown as if to say, “I can’t receive” a one-way train ticket to outside the village. In addition, the colored pencil drawing in the graphic poem was designed by Fujimoto, who created one large piece and dedicated half of it to the graphic poem, and the other half to a birthday card for Narciso Torres.
From the peelers in the graphic poem, audiences will experience layers of feelings towards family, Filipino culture, and uncomfortable situations. They peeled off unavoidable byproducts of this trans. sensory experience.
Angela Narciso Torres’ first book of poetry, Blood Orange, won the Willow Books Literature Award for Poetry and was published by Willow Books/Aquarius Press. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Colorado Review, and Water-Stone Review. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Angela has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Illinois Arts Council, Ragdale Foundation, and Midwest Writing Center. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she currently resides in Chicago, where she teaches poetry workshops and serves as a senior poetry editor for RHINO, a publicity coordinator for Woman Made Gallery Literary Events, and a reader for New England Review.
I just realized that this art does not have a title...
My graphic poetry exhibition, "Star Fragment", at Kafein will close at the end of March. Thank you very much for supporting my event. I feel like opening night was so long ago!
After the exhibition, I am going to sell this nameless, favorite pastel drawing of mine. I designed this art for my first manuscript, "Radio Tower". It became a finalist for Kundiman's poetry competition. I was hoping to use it for cover art someday; however, that day never came.
Through the years, I learned a lot of things about creating manuscripts. "Radio Tower" was not published as a full-length collection, but the experience guided me to make "Where I Was Born", "Mother Said, I Want Your Pain", and "Glyph:Graphic Poetry=Trans. Sensory". I definitely would not have made it this far without "Radio Tower". So I think that I should finally give this art a title.
If you view this art closely, you will see a lot of elements like a radio tower, bridge, upside-down tree, spatula..., my favorite things to draw. The art itself is larger than my other pieces (23 x 33 inches), showcasing so many details to this story.
I think that this art signifies a limbo of sorts for my publishing dreams. I would like to name the art, "First Attempt".
Graphic Poetry Exhibition Star Fragment will close by the end of March. Thank you to people who came and those still planning to come.
Address: 1621 Chicago Ave. Evanston, IL. 60091
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 7:00AM-12:00AM, Sundays: 8:00AM-12:00AM
Art Currently for Sale!
Home, No Home - Poetry Chapbook - Published by Educe Press
The winner of the first annual Oro Fino Chapbook Competition
People happily live.... That is ideal; however, unwanted events happen-earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, brain surgery, unfilled love, or not making monthly rent. Naoko Fujimoto, a Japanese poet, adapted these scenes into first-person narratives, in which ordinary people face these broken moments.
Diane Raptosh, Judge of the 2015 contest
"It is gritty and raw, earthy and spare, crafted superbly."
Serena Agusto-Cox, writer at Savvy Verse & Wit
"Naoko Fujimoto has deep silences that activate the reader’s mind, which turns each moment over and over to make sense of the devastation. From the deadly tsunami in Fukushima to more subtle moments of broken lives, Fujimoto takes on a first-person narrative in these literary poems to draw readers into that sadness, that loss, that emptiness, the silence to render grief alive."
Ryan Sanford Smith, MFA from the University of Notre Dame
"This is an immaculately crafted, emotionally devastating collection. There's so much elegant silence in these poems,but the carry a great deal of genuine heartbreak. The language is deft, the images are forceful and haunting. I cannot recommend this chapbook strongly enough."
Amazon Book Reviews
"A beautiful, small collection of poetry that cuts to the heart and head. Crisp style. Sharp language. Some of these poems sat with me for days" and "This is a stunning collection of poetry. Read the first poem "Seventeen Blue".
Trans. has two meanings - Translate & Transport
Naoko Fujimoto translates her poems (that are written in English on flat paper) into words and images to create a contemporary picture scroll. The picture scroll in Japanese is Emaki (eh-MA-kee) and the style has been popular since the 7-16th centuries in Japan. It is still a widely recognized art style in Japan and the rest of the world. Emaki is akin to a current graphic novel / poetry / comic. One of the most famous Emaki is the Tale of Genji, which is a fictional (perhaps gossip) story about a handsome son of the emperor.
The graphic poetry project is also meant for the viewer to transport their senses from the flat paper and bridge the gap between words and images that will connect with their physical counterparts. Like a historical Emaki, there are side stories hidden behind some of the main graphic narratives— be they comedic or serious— for audiences to interpret. All of the details (choice of words, origami paper, or styles) have a specific meaning to contribute to the whole.
Conception of graphic poetryIn June, 2016, Naoko Fujimoto decided to take a year off to be a full-time poet and artist. People around her asked why she was leaving a stable job, and if she was going to be a starving artist. She wanted to find out how far she can succeed as a poet and artist. After all, if she gets lost, she can just come back to what worked before.
During the year, she had opportunities to not only read books, but also explore and live with classic and contemporary works, such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Tokugawa Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. There, she revisited her idea of how she could create an effective melding of poetry and art; perhaps, words and images.
The following, entitled "The Duck's Smile", was her first attempt. She wrote an original poem for a project named, "Killing Sally McHill", which was a protest against common violence hidden around the house, school, office, and society. "The Duck's Smile" was specifically written about a hierarchy in a small community between the narrator and Sally. Her first graphic poem adapted a written poem into a graphic narrative. The poem started from the top left corner and progressed to the bottom right. It took a simple black and white art approach, but did not quite embody how she wanted it to be represented.
Graphic poetry is the melding of word and imageNaoko Fujimoto researched art works of inclusions of “word” and “image” such as László Moholy-Nagy, Hiroshige Utagawa, William Blake, Francisco Goya, and many other writers and artists. Then when she observed works by a German painter and sculptor, Anselm Kiefer, she understood that poetry must have explosions of creativity. Coincidentally, she had the chance to attend a workshop with Robin Coste Lewis, who critiqued the poems to be tight in structure, but reminded to forget about grammar and rules from time to time to experiment freely.
So she chose to adapt a traditional Japanese Emaki style (an illustrated narrative art). The original poem was carefully scattered specific phrases or implied images were selected, with the rest being ignored (like the poetry erasure technique). She traveled to find paper and objects, such as supermarket advertisements, birthday gift wrapping, postcards, origami, magazines, and other materials rich in color and texture. She wrote about relatable life conflicts, so using common objects in turn grounded her graphic poetry.
A closer look at the graphic poem "Radio Tower"
Run up to the hill,
I repeat it from the radio tower.
The tsunami slithers over the seaweed garden.
A child is held in its mother’s arms.
They are almost at the hill.
When the microphone slips from my hand,
clay seals my mouth. I hear
Wagner’s aria in my skull.
Clovers grow. Their dewdrops
glitter under the stardust. Promise me
home like bubbles in the sea,
like a sea gull,
like everyone else.
Compared to the original poem, words and phrases were selected with an erasure technique, some to be represented by visuals and others to be written out. The choice of words and images for the graphic poem is meant to engage the audience's senses. Viewers may draw emotions from triggered memories, and use them to stimulate further thinking of what those details mean.
All the details and choices of the composition, even the materials used, are carefully selected. For example, in "Radio Tower", the blue bubbles graphically portray the chaotic nature of a tsunami surrounding a woman. Some words are upside down like trembling waves. Empty buildings stand tall, but desiccated, on the Earth.
On the top right, there are people running away— some are underneath blue origami paper— these people were made from supermarket advertisements. They all ate healthy, used better products, or budgeted well for their family for when a crisis (or death) comes, yet some were consumed by the waves regardless. In the middle left is an upside-down Saint Mary, as even God-like figures cannot save them all. (Mary’s picture came from St. Paul’s Church in Antwerp, Belgium. This church supported the Kobe earthquake survivors in 1995.)
In graphic poetry, visual images can express narrative aspects beyond words. Clovers grow. Their dewdrops, she became like a plant, with roots growing into the universe, and her arms leaving the earth behind without her microphone. She is an invisible tree stretching and searching for her home.
Graphic Poetry = Trans. Sensory
Watch and listen to graphic poem, "Radio Tower"Enjoy watching her interview at Poetry Today with City of Highland Park PEG Access TV's Jennifer Dotson. She spoke about poetry, graphic poetry, RHINO, Tupelo Press, "Home, No Home," and herself (and her dress designed and made by her mother).