At a Party
I am one of two
Japanese men on the island.
I have long hair and Yoshi’s is short.
He wears glasses and I don’t.
Still, many people
mix us up.
When people ask me,
“Do you make miso?”
(which Yoshi does)
Masutani's precision and openness - such a difficult combination to achieve - created these easy-to-access, yet profound (and often very funny) poems. They are poems that seem deceptively simple and yet take a lifetime to master.
Here's another example:
My fourteen-year-old daughterasked me, "Dad, do you worryabout losing our respect?""No! Not at all," I replied."That's good."She sounded relieved.In bed, I wondered what she meant.Soon a watchman in a dark costumeappeared and gazedat the lake of my consciousness,as if to preventa dragon from emerging.The watchman's earnestnessprevented me from sleepingfor a long time.
I interviewed Masutani about the book for EVENT Magazine (you can read that interview here), and was lucky enough to read at an event with him for WORD Vancouver. Still, I wanted to know more - and I suspected my students would, too. We were lucky enough to have Masutani agree to visit our (virtual) classroom at SFU's The Writer's Studio last week.
On why he writes poetry:"Most of my friends are great talkers, but I'm not, so I wrote poems instead."
On working with his family and publisher to make his book:"Making a book is a collaboration. I'm just a part of it."On the importance of writing in a writer's life:On translating his own writing into Japanese:"Life is more than just literature.""I know more than the words about these poems."
On receiving edits to his poems:"It was difficult, but I knew these are not the last poems I'll write."
As we rocked on rough wavesI said to myself, "What wouldmy mother think of medying on a sailboat?"I got more scared and clungto the rails, prayingin silence, leaving controlof the boat to a priestI barely knew.Finally, I said, "Is the worstover?"Cupping his hand to his ear,he smiled.I'd planned fora different kindof sailing, packingmy fluteand a book.