Our collaboration at Space M in Tokyo May 22, 2018.
The visual artists live painting: Munenori Tamagawa and Radio the Artist.
Hirokazu “Jackson” Suyama on Handpan
My Poetry read with rattles by yours truly “Mythical Monster” and “Hip Hop Fukushima,” both excerpts from my theater piece NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET, which debuted at La Mama in New York in 2015, where Hiro also played the drum set and percussion. It was also performed last year in San Francisco Z Space.
Thanks to Kenji Taguchi for the video and for having our poetry at this fabulous showcasing of important visual artists.
Our collaboration at Space M in Tokyo May 22, 2018.
MY POEM “ode to the Stroller” got published in TOKYO POETRY JOURNAL Vol. 5, dedicated to the Beat Poets January 2018.
THE BOOK PARTY AT OL TOKYO
7 p.m. SAT Jan. 27, 2018.
I read this poem with my YURICANE spoken-word band: Winchester Nii Tete (percussion), Kouzan Kikuchi (shakuhachi) and Hirokazu Natsuaki (cello), crossing borders so sounds, genres, cultures, people come together in a performance with no score but all soul.
Motherhood poems are usually square or oppressive and so many women don’t like to write about motherhood. I chose pushing the stroller as a metaphor to depict motherhood in all its proper liberated glory. This happens to be in San Francisco because that is where I had my son and I pushed him around on strollers a lot. But it can be about any mom anywhere. The point of this poem is that it is location-specific and so it takes you on a journey, not only where the stroller went but also in our minds and our path of life like a movie.
We dedicate our performance to all mothers, including Mother Earth herself, and, of course, all the children.
ode to the stroller
a poem by Yuri Kageyama
we zip weightless like silent angels
up and down San Francisco hills
running on the mother of all energy
greener than solar
rolling rolling rolling
cream acid rock ‘n’ rolling
lightning dazzling wheels
teethers jangling dangling dancing
going mad on strangle-free rubbery ribbons
up and down the Avenues
J-town, Clement Street
Golden Gate Park
Museum of Modern Art
we are singing:
“Ouma no oyako wa nakayoshi koyoshi
itsudemo issho ni pokkuri pokkuri aruku”
perfume wind in our hair
springing over potholes
not even stopping just for breast feeds
connected as one through this magical machine
the Lamborghini of strollers
the Gundam of strollers
the little train that could of strollers
up up up into the joyous clouds
down slurping slopes
around swervacious curves
we are one
yes, we are one
tied in the past with our
even in death
in our dreams
This version of my reading was recorded at Jackson’s Garage in Tokyo, with Hirokazu Suyama Jackson on drums, Yuuichiro Ishii on guitar and Hiroshi Tokieda on bass.
The poem is about young motherhood some time back, but I wrote this poem recently.
The feelings remain the same, eternal:
photo of San Francisco Sunset District 2017.
An ode to the Asian Uncle Tom
A Yuricane poem (or does power always turn evil?)
by Yuri Kageyama
You sit prim with your glasses
Behind that desk, title, resume
Won on the backs of
The 442 Purple Hearts
Oblivious in your banal Banana-ism
To the fact that
Yellow is your Color
The most expedient, forgotten,
Cheapest of lives
You sip white wine at ethnic restaurants
New York, Tokyo, Dubai, Bangkok
They all look alike
Smiling in Instagram posts
You have it made
You have them duped
You have arrived
Never mind, in your deepest fearful solitary moments,
You can’t help but pick out
Who look like you:
Race suddenly a Reality;
You must put them down,
And make sure they stay down,
Remain the invisible man, the invisible woman,
Establish as Fact through rumors and appraisals
That People of Color
Can’t be objective, and, be careful,
Get easily used,
You can do the math _ as the stereotype goes _
The slots are limited,
Tokenism being a zero sum game,
Diversity cannot be the majority;
You’ve long lost your ancestral accent
You’ve adopted the air of leaders
You’ve deleted memories
Of how we were all shackled,
We picked strawberries,
We built the Transcontinental Railroad,
We survived behind barbed wires,
You go to meetings,
Rehearse video appearances,
Take vacations to the Caribbean and Bali,
Sneer at Chinese going shopping,
Plan your retirement,
Only to whites
Loving Younger Men _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama in collaboration with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and song
“Loving Younger Men,” a poem written by Yuri Kageyama, read by Yuri Kageyama with Yui Shikakura on shamisen and singing at Bar Gari Gari in Tokyo at a Drunk Poets See God gathering Dec. 22, 2017. Her song is traditional Japanese “kudoki,” in which a woman talks about being abandoned by her lover, a genre that is sad but also an erotic celebration.
“Loving Younger Men” was first published in BEYOND RICE, A BROADSIDE SERIES, Mango Publications and NOLO Press, 1979.
Loving Younger Men
a poem by Yuri Kageyama
Only the bodies of young men aroused her; the pure innocence in their wide dark eyes, the wild still animal strength in their muscles, the smoothness of their skin, so shiny, stretched out over their boy-like shoulders, flat stomachs, abdominals rippling gently, their thick thighs that could thrust forever into the night, their soft moist lips, where their tonges, so delicious, dwelt, which darted against, into her vagina, making her moan with joy, forgetting everything, which felt so strong against her own tongue at one moment, yet another, seemed to melt like caramel in the back of her throat, their dry fingers, that touched her in the most unexpected and expecting spots, their penises, half-covered by their black curls, seemed smaller, less developed, less threatening, yet as their shoulders strangely widened when they held her, their penises filled her, pointed against her deepest uterine insides, hurting her with a pleasurable pain, as though she could sense with her hand, their movements from outside her belly. Her father beat her as a girl. She ran from him, crying, please don’t hit me! please don’t hit me! No, rather she stood defiant, silent, silent tears drunk down her chest, till he, in anger or fear, slapped her again and again, once so hard she was swung across the room, once on her left ear so that she could not hear for three weeks. She frequented bars, searching for young men who desired her. She sat alone drinking. She preferred the pretty effeminate types _ perfectly featured, a Michelangelo creation, island faces with coral eyes, faces of unknown tribal child-princes. To escape her family, she eloped at sixteen, with an alchoholic. who tortured her every night, binding her with ropes, sticking his penis into her mouth until she choked, hitting her face into bruises, kicking her in the stomach, aborting her child, his child. The young boys’ heads, she would hold, after orgasm, rocking them in her arms. She would kiss the side of their tanned necks, breathe in the ocean scent of their hair, lick their ear lobes and inside their ears. When they fell asleep, sprawled like a puppy upon her sheets, their mouths open, she would lie awake watching, watching, watching, admiring their bodies, how so aesthetically formed, balanced, textured. What she enjoyed the most was their fondling her breasts, suckling, massaging the flesh, flicking the tongue against the nipple, biting, sucking till her nipples were red-hot for days. She could come just by this, without penetration. When she is alone, she cries. In the dark, she reaches upwards, into the air, grabbing nothing.
My Poetry at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo. With Yuuichiro Ishii guitar and Kouzan Kikuchi on shakuhachi. Film by Yoshiaki Tago. Photos by Junji Kurokawa. Thanks to Professor Marc Menish for having us. 2017 Open Lecture on Disaster, Trauma and Hope.
We presented four poems that are excerpts from my NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET:
A MOTHER SPEAKS
Not wanting to say “Me too”
_ An essay by Yuri Kageyama
I have written about sexual abuse many times, as a poet and as a journalist, but I have not talked about my personal experience with sexual harassment.
I was involved in what has been credited as the first sexual harassment case in the U.S. to surface at an academic institution.
That was the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a student.
It was a highly publicized case, but I requested, as did the other victims, to stay anonymous.
I remember I got a call from a fellow student to take part in a campus protest over the case. I told her I was reluctant.
But I had to join forces, she said, breathless over the phone, because what some of the women were saying was amazing.
She read from a letter that was part of the case against the respected professor at the Department of Sociology, a Marxist with a progressive reputation.
The letter went something like this: “We came to the university to get an education, to realize our dreams and to develop as people. The behavior of this professor is unethical, sexist and unprofessional.”
“And so can’t you come to the protest?” she insists.
I keep saying, “No.” But she insists.
And so finally I have to say it.
“I wrote that letter,” I tell her. “And I don’t want to join.”
She falls silent on the other end. It is a painful, sad and numbing moment.
And this is the same way I feel today, decades later.
I respect all those who are saying, “me too.” If there is any redeeming factor to coming out, it is in the knowledge of the systematic pattern of abuse _ that we are not alone, that this is not an extraordinary happening but everyday.
It must be OK to be victims, if it is practically everybody.
But I still don’t feel the trust.
I don’t feel anything good will come of it. And it is not up to the victims to bring justice to an abuser or a harasser. That is not our job.
I did not start the process back then, although I did write that letter when asked, for the investigation.
I had gone earlier to one professor whom I trusted. He shrugged and told me to grow up. He mentioned that he himself had married his student.
But word on the problem professor’s antics gradually got out.
The case initially divided the department _ between those who were stunned someone in their ranks would be preying on students versus those who thought the whole case was a ditched up witch hunt.
And so they did what grown-ups do. They hired an outside objective lawyer and investigator, from Stanford University, I believe, to talk to all the alleged victims.
I remember I was called into her office. Yes, it was a woman.
So I told her what happened, hesitantly, nervously, replying to her questions.
It was another painful, sad and numbing moment.
He had called to say he wanted to discuss one of my papers and told me to come to a downtown Berkeley cafe. But when I showed up, a little flattered a professor would want to talk about my work, he had not even brought my paper.
We sat at a table, dimly lit, in the fancier part of Berkeley that I had never been to before. He told me he was interested in me because I was Asian, and he was not interested in loud American women.
He made a joke, something about: “I’m the man. I like to be on top.”
He complimented me on what I was wearing, a top that appeared to have Asian motifs. It was one of my favorite shirts, and I happened to have it on when I talked to the lawyer.
And so I told her that was what I had on. She asked, apparently a part of an investigator’s modus operandi to see how reliable my memory might be.
As it turns out, at least one woman was physically attacked in his car. There was another student who was happy about becoming his lover, and told everyone he had changed her life, whatever that meant.
This woman’s existence was as alienating and depressing as the existence of the woman who was attacked was alarming and horrifying.
It didn’t help for me to know the one who was attacked was a woman of color.
I was just afraid. I did not want to go into the department halls in case he would be there, and I would have to deal with him.
Maybe I would not be as afraid today. But I was young, and he was an older powerful male, who had my future in his control, and he had specifically said he wanted me to do something that I did not want.
I was already feeling violated, weak and objectified. It was an awkward, sickening feeling.
Unfortunately, he was there once, in the department mailroom. Although I tried to get away, he approached me and asked that I retract the letter I had written in the case against him.
He promised in a pleading tone that I would get an “A” if I would retract the letter.
My case was one of the “more damaging” against him, another professor had explained to me, because I had gotten all A’s in my work in his class, as well as my other classes, but after I refused his advances, he had given a B for my overall grade.
You don’t want to even weep. You just want the world to go away, and you don’t want to think about it. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to even remember it.
I never finished my doctorate, settling for my Master’s.
The professor found another job, in a prestigious institution in Europe, and left on his own, still insisting on his innocence.
The lawyer doing the investigation recommended dismissal.
So we were vindicated, of sorts.
Years later, when a woman asked for my advice about a sexual harasser in her office, I told her just to stay away from him, never be alone with him, assuring her that I with my friends would be there for her physically, to protect her, if any situation arose she had to be with him. But I advised against making a public complaint.
So I don’t shout out, “me too.”
At least, I managed to write this today.
It’s strange and it’s not right I remember so much of it, the tiniest details _ the tone of the lawyer’s voice, the look in the professor’s eye, the dark orange glow of that table _ when it happened so many years ago.
People don’t understand you don’t have to be particularly beautiful or outstanding to be a victim.
It’s usually mundane, pathetic and devoid of glamour, neither Hollywood nor the Olympic team.
Some men just look around to what is available, vulnerable, close to them.
And I was there, a student, in that department.
I had a flowery Asian shirt on. That was all.
A COLLABORATION OF VISUAL ART, THE SPOKEN WORD AND MUSIC
THE VERY SPECIAL DAY
What: I read my poetry/story “The Very Special Day” while Munenori Tamagawa paints to guitar by Yuuichiro Ishii.
Where: Nagai Garou’s Tachikawa Gallery 1-25-24 Nishi Building 4 Fl Fujimicho Tachikawa, Tokyo TEL: 080‐9573‐5655
When: SAT Oct. 28, 2017 from 3 p.m. Reception party follows from 4:30 p.m ~ 6 p.m.
Who: Munenori Tamagawa, “the Basquiat of Japan,” has shown his work at the Seattle Art Fair, Tachikawa Art Brut and the streets of Tokyo, including Innokashira Park and the Shiodome Art Market.
Guitarist Yuuichiro Ishii, who studied recently at the Berklee College of Music on a prestigious scholarship, has performed with Fuyu, Mika Nakashima and Yusa, as well as my Yuricane spoken-word band.
Why: To celebrate the exhibition of Munenori Tamagawa’s recent works.
More What: Last year, Munenori Tamagawa and I created the children’s book THE VERY SPECIAL DAY, which brings together my story with his illustrations. More information on our evolving collaboration.
Artists make any day a very special day when we come together.
Video by Naomi Yoshida
The writer Yo Nakayama has also translated my poems.
I so liked his versions I’ve read them with my poems.
Mr. Nakayama is an academic and a poet, too, and he has a flock of long hair and reading glasses maybe, and he is wise and soft and brave.
Or so I imagine, as although I maybe have met him, I can’t really remember.
I vaguely remember reading this review when I was younger, and frankly I didn’t really think much of it.
I was too busy dealing with things that went with trying to survive and being creative I did not really appreciate how this older poet was being supportive and so poignant.
And so poetic.
I am older now and do.
Nakayama died in 1997, it says online.
But his writing lives on.
Here, this person I know through Facebook, of all ways, has shared in a message this precious, kindhearted review of my work.
I am grateful, of course, and feel blessed.
But I also feel a sense of vindication about being a poet _ that we are all connected in doing the right, eternal thing by being poets.
Please read the review.
I’ve also updated my Review section on my site with this addition,
Sorry this is belated but thank you, Mr. Nakayama, truly from the poet’s heart:
Saying it her own way
a book review by Yo Nakayama in Kyoto Review, 22, Spring 1989
of “Peeling” by Yuri Kageyama, I. Reed Books, Berkeley, CA
New and important. Yuri Kageyama was born in Japan, but grew up in American culture.
Her work as contrasted with those of previous generations is very articulate and beautiful.
Should you take up this, her collection of poetry, you’ll find 32 exciting poems under five different sections.
In the first section she remembers time spent with her mother. Yuri seems to know where she is from, as here in a poem in which she describes her mother’s profile.
Her face from the side
the cheekbones distinct
is an Egyptian profile sculpture
an erotic Utamaro ukiyoe
and her mother’s lessons:
As soon as I would awake some chilly morning, she would
tell me to go smell the daphne bushes leading to our door.
I still remember their fresh fruitlike pungence
As Yuri grows older, she becomes uncomfortable with her mother and begins to hate her and her culture, which is alien to the American scene.
I dread your touch
when you return
that melts the hurt and vengeance
to strangle you
Yuri feels almost physically hurt when she thinks of it. This is one of the characteristics your easily notice in her poetry. She is a physical writer, by which I mean that Yuri tries to write out of her own physical senses, especially when she talks about her involvement with music. In a short poem, “Music Makes Love to Me,” she confesses, “Music makes love to me everyday/ spilling cooled cucumber seeds/ wet flat disks to the tongue/ tickling/ shooting them with exalta-jaculation into my ear//” or in the section “Thought Speak,” she conveys her inner sensations as she listens to music:
the frantic flap of love doves taking dawn pre-cognizing flight
outside our window
Or she describes her inner world as follows:
forsaken bamboo forest of the mind
burrowing darkness like the earth
muted and alone
As a young Japanese woman living in America, Yuri is constantly exposed to the situation that she has to say what she has to say: she, however, says it her own way, and I like it very much.
“A Categorical Analysis of the Asian Male or the Guide to Safe and Sane Living for the Asian Female” is a very funny piece in which she says there are four types: the Street Dude or “Lumberjack,” the Straight Dude or “Stereotype,” the Out There Dude or “Bum,” and finally the type four she calls the Ideal Dude, but this is the “Obake,” or the ghost, that is, she says “the perfect man who does not exist.” Once, Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan wrote that in America being a Filipino is a crime. And Yuri is, she says, “tired of the laundry men/ and the dirty restaurant cooks (cuz) they don’t have the powers.”
you see only the race in me
cuz, white man,
The best part of the book is, however, that which deals with her physical intimacy with her lovers and her own baby. She could have written a categorical analysis of a male partner or the guide to safe and safe mating for a serious woman as well. Only after she has a baby of her own, she begins to realize the importance of the “Strings/Himo,” which she once wanted so badly to break out and couldn’t. Her reflection on the total life: “Having Babies Versus Having Sex” is the final poem in this book. When she sees her man rocking the baby, and looks into Isaku’s eyes and cries with him, she reaches her conclusion: this is the culmination of her womanhood.
Are my eyes
That see and see what I have seen
They can’t ever understand
The love of a Japanese woman
Pale powdered hands
Eyes downcast night pools of wetness
Fifteen years for her samurai lover
And when he comes back
These poems could never have been written by anyone but a poetess who has gone through the labor Mother Nature imposes upon the one who creates. If not for Yuri’s sensitivity and capability, this book wouldn’t have been born.
Two of my songs in this new album
“Oh My Buddha” and “I Will Bleed,” two songs I co-wrote with Hiroshi Tokieda and Tea, are part of this great album that just came out (October 2017).
“Oh My Buddha” (audio of an earlier reading in the link) is an Asian take on what we often say: “Oh My God,” something that Toshinori Kondo pointed out some time back as what we should be saying as Asians.
And so I imagined what it would have been like to have been married to a great man like Buddha.
It might have not been as wonderful as it might seem.
Tea and I were talking about how fun it would be to write a pop song that was inspired by an Indian theme.
And so this is what we did.
I even rap or read my poem in the recording _ woooh la la !!
OH MY BUDDHA
_ a song about faith, love and other things
By Yuri Kageyama
My name is Yasodhara
Wife of Buddha
Mother of Rahula
I ride a white elephant
I am Siddharta’s woman
You took off to find Nirvana
Became a hero for the poor
You just took off one sunny day
And found enlightenment
While I’m stuck in the kitchen
Barefoot and pregnant, alone
You’ve started a religion
See statues in your likeness
Of gold and bronze and wood
Sitting prim on that lotus
While I’m having your babies
Feeding them, aborting them, alone
You remember I cooked you breakfast?
So you could go and contemplate
Sitting 49 days under the Bodhi tree
To discover, sacrifice, meditate?
While I’m crying in my misery
Breathing my prayers, alone
You’re a superstar
I’m a nobody
You live in history
I die unknown
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
When I awoke
There was no sign of you
My universe went up in smoke
My universe went up in smoke
Oh, my Buddha
Oh, my Buddha
I am planning a music video, and I have asked Toshinori “Toshichael” Tani to come up with choreography.
He will dance in the video, which I will film.
“I Will Bleed,” to me, evokes a lot of things _ abortion, miscarriage, birth, heartbeat, love, death.
Love is such a powerful force it is both horrible and awful.
My poem is about that horror, inspired by the double suicides of Chikamatsu, which highlight how the puppets, in death, are able to transcend how miserable, human and lowly they were before that moment of death.
That beauty to me is about the kind of love that crosses boundaries, overcoming racism and other small, discriminatory, confining preconceptions.
It speaks of the potential of our human condition.
I wrote the poem for Hiroshi and Tea.
But it is a poem for all lovers, and the hope love will overcome hate around the world, through the purification of our bleeding.
Aging _ A Poetic Reflection
a poem by Yuri Kageyama
But that hotness
That is you
A clear bubble of heavenly air _
Because skin is fallible,
Sags, blotches, wrinkles _
Still burning, hotter, inside,
That is you
Age can’t ever change this feeling:
Of the man you love
Moving inside of you
And that child
That is you