Ryoichi Wago and the Poetics of Catastrophe
In the car, after Jane Hirshfield gave us each a letterpress broadside of her poem, Ayako is explaining to Ryoichi, saying American poets exchange broadsides as though they were business cards. I only kind of agree, mostly because I don’t have a broadside. How would I choose just one poem to be my calling card? They ask me how often poets make broadsides and instead of clearing up the matter, I just say that they print one for each published book, at least. It’s Ryoichi’s first time in the U.S. and there are still Christmas lights up that he coos over as we drive the east bay hills at dusk. In each neighborhood, I say, these houses are expensive. I’m worried that we haven’t hosted him with the fanfare appropriate for a person who stayed in Fukushima after the meltdown. In the eerie isolation of catastrophe and his non-evacuation, he sent out a series of tweets as poems or a long poem. In the reading he moaned and shouted and let each sheet of paper drop to the floor as he read them. In the Q &A he cited Prince and Michael Jackson as influencing his work. Ayako was fixing the projector so I took on the pose of translator but simplified everything like a textbook or a one paragraph summary of an epic. In the car, he tells me he likes the Beat poets and that’s where he gets his reading style from. We are mostly in the car for our three day visit. Between the BART station, house visits and campus. Before the reading, we go to Terrapin Crossroads, meet Forrest and giovanni and Ash. I order pizza and hummus and fish. We were on campus before I realize that people might have wanted drinks and now for sure, Ryoichi is in Tokyo talking about the American poets who spent hours in a bar without drinking. My reputation, fragile as best.