Li Chi, C14H
Talien, Manchuria 249
November 7, 1925
Dear Mr. Kitagawa:
I am a student in Western Literature at Hiroshima University under the
tutelage of Professor Nakano Shigeharu, and I am writing to tell you
that I have greatly admired the new journal A. It has made me think of
poetry in a thoroughly new way, and for this I wish to express my
sincere gratitude to you and Dr. Anzai Fuyue.*
Each time I read Dr. Anzai's poem, "Spring,"
A herring is about to be brought to the table, coming through a subway
I feel renewed and excited, as if I had been woken from a dream by an
Imperial courtesan with the biceps of a wrestler! And your own
There is a naval port inside of its intestines
reveals, if there ever was any doubt, that within a single turnip
there are mountains, rivers, and a whole formation of rubber-capped
subjects swimming across the Hokkaido Strait!
Here, if you'll allow me the indiscretion, are three responses to your
extraordinary "Horse." I offer them in honor of your poem, but should
you find them worthy, I would be deeply honored were any included in a
future issue of A:
Inside the naval port there are millions of kilometers
Inside this teenager I desire, there is a
mandala of intestines
Chewing on braised intestine, he becomes a horse,
chasing its tail just beyond the
edge of a barbarian scroll
I enclose the requested remittance for a one year subscription.
My esteemed and patriotic greetings,
*[In carbon copy. Kitagawa Fuyuhiko and Anzai Fuyue were founders of
the magazine A, one of the central journals in the development of
Japanese poetic modernism. The descriptive analogies and three poems
that Yasusada offers in praise of the two poets are idiosyncratic, to
say the least, and their rhetorical intent is somewhat ambiguous. Our
leaning is to read them in the spirit of a youthful but sophisticated
stab at the participation (as settlers) of Kitagawa and Anzai in the
Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Whatever his intent, Yasusada seems
not to have impressed the editors of A, as the poems were never
published there, nor is there any record of further communication
between Yasusada and Kitagawa. Nevertheless, in 1928, the poem
"Translator" appeared (under the pseudonym Iijima Tai) in
Shobi.majutsu.gakusetsu [Rose.Magic.Theory], Japan's first
magazine of surrealist literature, founded by Kitasono Kasue in 1927.
The use of the pseudonym is most certainly due to the increasing
repression against unorthodox authors by the militarist government in
the late 1920s, which culminated with open censorship and cultural
persecution throughout the war years. The poem "Manchurian Prisoner"
is circled in ink and noted in Yasusada's script: "Send to Kitasono at
VOU," a note that must have been made sometime in the mid to late
1930s. Indeed, there is an undated, handwritten letter from Kitasono
in one of the notebooks, expressing effusive admiration for Yasusadaís
poetry and indicating a desire to publish "in the close future of a
pale fire." On the back of this letter, Yasusada has penned, in
English, the following stanza. We do not know if it is of his personal
composition, or copied over from another authorship:
But all at once it dawned on me that this
Was the real point, the contrapuntal theme;
Just this: not text, but texture; not the dream
But topsy-turvical coincidence,
Not flimsy nonsense, but a web of sense.
Yes! It sufficed that I in life could find
Some kind of link-and-bobolink, some kind
Of correlated pattern in the game,
Plexed artistry, and something of the same
Pleasure in it as they who played it found.
We suspect, though we aren't sure, that poems by Yasusada appear in
the publication of VOU under pseudonym(s).
-- Tosa Motokiyu, Ojiu Norinaga, and Okura Kyojin, Eds.]
newly-mined letters from Araki Yasusada at Jacket
Further commentary on
Yasusada from Kent Johnson at "read me"