Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A blog about light and darkness, and the thoughts of a being trapped in time from the dark side of Hiroshi Yoshida's full moon

Kumori Cherry Trees                                                                                                              Hiroshi Yoshida (1930)


                                                   Under an April Full Moon

                “In light, darkness, not taken as darkness.  In dark, light, not taken as light.
                    Light and dark oppose like front and back foot walking.”
                                                                                                               -    Shitou

                            The last of dusk, now subsumed in night, 
                  dwells with the pair here in the darkness,

                                  while that enormous April moon,

                                            full & fat, bathes all surfaces in a soft glow.

                           Subtler still, the cherry blooms,

                                              their momentary show
                                                                 reflected in shadowy half-light.

                          The two, one older, both in blossom

                                              pause, as fading eyes mute all starkness 

                                                               and bring all beings closer to

                                                              each other.   Time walks here, too

                        in their forms & in the

                                       two women,  their kimonos,

                                              silvered by the shining,

                                                      like water in an old well.

                                                            #  #  #

On May 4th, I was honored to receive First Place in the Adult Division of the Toledo Museum of Art’s (TOMA) Annual Ekphrastic Writing Contest. (http://tinyurl.com/6rkcy9r)

There was a full moon that night or almost a full moon, not that it mattered precisely. The full moon of May, the planting moon, the flower moon, was in perigee, closer than at any other time in a long time. But it was the same full moon as in April when I wrote this poem and the same full moon Hiroshi Yoshida tried to capture in that April sometime between 1920 & 1930 that whispered its image of light in the darkness and darkness in the light.

The color woodcut that is rather poorly depicted by the jpeg above is an attempt to show the beautiful work that inspired the poem. I believe I saw Yoshida’s work more than 30 years ago when I was on a two-week residency for Ohio’s Poets-in-the-Schools’ Program in nearby Findlay, Ohio. My host and hostess encouraged me to stop and I walked this magical museum for hours, fascinated by a magnificent collection that spanned the centuries. Hiroshi Yoshida (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroshi_Yoshida) was sort of the Japanese Maxfield Parrish for me. He had a sense of capturing color and light that was mystical, pure and yet heightened, a vision that to me, seems to be Zen in visual form. By coincidence, the TOMA had purchased Yoshida’s entire exhibit when it toured America. After 1925, Yoshida, like many great artists, hired professional carvers and printers and established a studio to create under his close supervision. This print was done in 1930 and I have no idea whether his hand or his eye formed its “perfect symmetry,”  but it inspired my poem.

Yoshida’s work, miracle that it is, rarely is exhibited, and the coincidence of seeing it when I did, was serendipitous. The works have rarely been shown because the delicacy of the colors could be lost by prolonged exposure to light. The work itself is about light and, like all art, about time, and the “exposure” of the mind to light in time. In looking for what was available to share about this great artist, who is equal to if not superior to many of the great impressionists, I came across this image. It shows, as readily as Monet’s many paintings of Chartres Cathedral that light and time are different in every light at every time in all the places of the world, even to the end of time.


 One source of Yoshida’s work, of course, is the Yoshida family. His children, like the school he founded, went on to their own fame. One gallery with images and video that I found had interesting and noteworthy links, is Artolino. (http://tinyurl.com/7296kpy) If the Museum posts links to my poem and the other ekphrastic writing winners, some very talented young writers, I will post these to the blog.