A POEM FOR JOURNALISM by Yuri Kageyama

Joe Oyama in an Online California Archives photo, as he stands in the New York headquarters of the Common Council for American Unity. Joe was assistant editor of the Japanese American daily in Los Angeles before he was interned, in Santa Anita Assembly Center and Jerome Relocation Center, where both he and his wife Sami worked as journalists. After moving to New York in 1944, he was editor of the News Letter of the Japanese American Committee for Democracy. He and his wife were also both actors. They moved to Berkeley in their later years. I got to know him and Sami and their two children, who are also great artists. Joe was always supportive of my poetry:

Joe Oyama in an Online California Archives photo, as he stands in the New York headquarters of the Common Council for American Unity. Joe was assistant editor of the Japanese American daily in Los Angeles before he was interned, in Santa Anita Assembly Center and Jerome Relocation Center, where both he and his wife Sami worked as journalists. After moving to New York in 1944, he was editor of the News Letter of the Japanese American Committee for Democracy. He and his wife were also both actors. They moved to Berkeley in their later years. I got to know him and Sami and their two children, who are also great artists. Joe was always supportive of my poetry: “Like champagne,” he said once. This poem is for Joe and all the other great journalists. May the legacy live on.

A Poem for Journalism
By Yuri Kageyama

A Tree, a Story, a Drum
Circles carved times over,
Coded rhythms of continents
Animal skin stretched, carefully nailed,
So our heartbeat is not lost _
The snare, congas, kpanlogo, tabla, taiko,
Talking drums speaking faraway tongues _
Stories killed, stories buried,
Stories denied, stories untold,
Perhaps we were just not stopped before
When our stories were not dangerous
But the Reporter is still here.
Hear the words
And see what they have seen:
Robert and Dori Maynard
Woodward and Bernstein
Margaret Bourke-White
Howard Imazeki
Gary Webb
Robert Capa
Anja Niedringhaus
Gerald Vizenor
Gwen Ifill
Joe Oyama
Gordon Parks
Hear that Music in the Skin,
Feel that Story in the Tree,
Banned by slave owners,
The Drum holds the Message,
The Pow Wow stirs in starlit nights
The Slap-Tone conviction that comes to us
The Dance cannot be silenced; listen:
Printers rumble, digital pages scroll, newspapers turn,
Borders fade into illusory walls,
Starving children, covered up documents, the ravages of war
The Voice through the centuries
Asking Questions
Even if no one cares to hear the Answers,
Accurate, objective, fast, ethical
No matter what they say,
I am deranged but I am not deranged
I am fake but I am not fake
I am afraid but I am not afraid
I am the Drum, the Tree, the Story.

Toshinori Kondo _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Toshinori Kondo
A Poem
By Yuri Kageyama

shrieks growls wails moaning jagged cries that tell stories of the urban jungle wire and metal untamed animal half machine bleeding real blood never stops a never-ending pulse guerilla warfare of free music of onomatopoeia like a snake or a frog whose skin is always wet

GIFTS FROM THE DEAD a poem by Yuri Kageyama

GIFTS FROM THE DEAD
a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Graves are always There
for those Who are still
Alive to Forgive
Accept Reconcile.
They don’t Speak Back.
They don’t expect much
because
they are ready
to be Forgotten
if not
really already
Forgotten.
So when You
Go There, You
will Be Forgiven:
Grave are Gifts
from the Dead
for the Living.

At a temple in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

At a temple in Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Japan. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

OH MY BUDDHA _ A poem by Yuri Kageyama with Music composed by Tea and Hiroshi Tokieda

Buddha in Bangkok. Photo by Yuri Kageyama

Buddha in Bangkok. Photo by Yuri Kageyama

OH MY BUDDHA
_ a song about faith, love and other things
By Yuri Kageyama

REPEATING THEME:
My name is Yasodhara
Wife of Buddha
Mother of Rahula
I ride a white elephant
I am Siddharta’s woman

VERSE 1
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

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 2
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

(Repeat theme)

VERSE 3
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

(Repeat theme)

REFRAIN
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

Sung by Tea Tokieda and Read by Yuri Kageyama.
Music composed by Tea and Hiroshi Tokieda.
Bass by Hiroshi Tokieda, percussions/tabla by Hirokazu Suyama Jackson and shakuhachi by Kouzan Kikuchi.
At Infinity Books AUG 7, 2016, in Tokyo.
Inspired by and dedicated to Toshinori Kondo, who is constantly exploring the meaning of the Asian sound/literarture/self in the world, and told me once that we should all start saying: “Oh My Buddha,” like the way Westerners say: “Oh My God.”
So this is a song about what it would like to be the wife of Buddha _ that behind-every-man-is-a-woman story, and how we women are selfless in love and almost always invisible:

Buddha in Bangkok. Photo by Yuri Kageyama

Buddha in Bangkok. Photo by Yuri Kageyama

Guest in a white room _ A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

Guest in a white room
A Poem by Yuri Kageyama

not unwanted
just invisible
they glide across
smiling like shadows
silent of slurs
silent of praise
you know you are a guest
in a room meant for whites

MY LYRICS FOR A SONG AND MY POEM IN KONCH MAGAZINE

HANDS OF A CLOCK is an R&B song for which I wrote the lyrics with Trupti.
The song, with music by Trupti and Hiroshi Tokieda, will be featured in Sybil Thomas‘ next album.
Sybil Thomas is one of the legendary Rufus Thomas’ family of musicians.
So we are at it again _ the same songwriting team as for I WILL BLEED (featured in the previous post) _ Trupti, Hiroshi and me.
HANDS OF A CLOCK is in the January 2016 issue of KONCH magazine, published by Ishmael Reed and edited by Tennessee Reed.
The January 2016 issue of KONCH also published my poem “A Crow’s Request.”

Hands of a Clock
Words by Trupti and Yuri Kageyama
Music by Trupti and Hiroshi Tokieda
Written to be sung by Sybil Thomas in her next album.

Verse 1

Hey, we’ve met before
You say the first night we meet
It feels like a life that’s come around before

Verse 2

Hey, shall we dance?
We’ve met many times in our dreams
I was sure I knew you at first glance

Pre-Chorus

Long before a thing has begun,
We’re tied in a destiny of time
Ticking together as one

Chorus

Like the hands of a clock
We are like the hands of a clock
The world keeps spinning
At every new beginning
We come back around
Like the hands of a clock

Verse 3

Hey, is this reality?
Will this last through the changing times?
‘Coz I am a true believer in eternity

Pre-Chorus

Long before a thing has begun,
We’re tied in a destiny of time
Ticking together as one

Chorus

Like the hands of a clock
We are like the hands of a clock
The world keeps spinning
At every new beginning
We come back around
Like the hands of a clock

Bridge

Seconds Minutes and Hours
Are just ways time stays in a groove
When love has stopped our inner clock
Toward timeless love we will move

I WILL BLEED a song about love that defies all _ a finalist in a UK songwriting contest

I co-wrote the poem/lyrics with Trupti for “I WILL BLEED,” a song about star-crossed lovers inspired by Chikamatsu‘s double-suicides written for Bunraku puppet theater, about how love, no matter how simple, mundane and pathetic, endures, even in death.
The melody was composed by Trupti and Hiroshi Tokieda, who also plays bass in this fine rendition at his father’s Tokyo recording studio (SoundCloud below).
The musical composition by the couple songwriting team was selected a finalist winner in the U.K. Songwriting Contest in December 2015.
I am blessed to be collaborating with and just to know these two young brilliant musicians. I have seen them get married, despite being of different nationalities and backgrounds, tied together so absolutely through their love for music, and their love for each other.
They met at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where my son Isaku Kageyama graduated recently, and performed together in different musical groups, with both Trupti and Hiroshi.
They are our future, and the future of the best in music.
The best in us. All of us.
What I want to say in this song is that I still believe in love.
I wrote the poem and worked on the song with Trupti, knowing all the while that Trupti would sing it, and that Hiroshi and Trupti would compose the music together.
The song debuted at my poetry reading and tribute to my poet mentor Ishmael Reed at SFJAZZ CENTER in June 2014 (YouTube clip below).
They are the idea for this song.
They are this song.
I created this song for them.

I WILL BLEED
V1
I won’t cry (a)
Coz it’s in love that I bleed (b)
A bridge of ribbon that carries me (b)
Across waves of war no one can see (b)
V2
I won’t run (a)
My blood will rush strong and drain (b)
All my pride, prejudice and pain (b)
Only our love will still remain (b)
C
I will bleed (a)
But I won’t flee,
Hell is what I desire (b)
I will bleed
But I won’t hide
Hell is what I desire
Such heavenly fire
V3
I won’t sleep (a)
Until this ocean turns to wine (b)
On a night when our stars align (b)
Lying cheek to cheek no longer confined (x)
V4
We will live (a)
You the east and me the sun (b)
Not afraid of different tongues (b)
Our blood joined will make us one (x)

Reading excerpts from NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA

Yuri Kageyama and Hirokazu Suyama Jackson at The Container gallery in Tokyo for a poetry reading. January 2016.

Yuri Kageyama and Hirokazu Suyama Jackson at The Container gallery in Tokyo for a poetry reading. January 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa


All Photos by Junji Kurokawa.

Hirokazu Suyama Jackson (tablas) and I did a reading of excerpts from the multi-media performance piece I wrote NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: MEDITATION ON AN UNDER-REPORTED CATASTROPHE BY A POET at The Container gallery, which is in a hair salon in Daikanyama, Tokyo.
Thanks to novelist and GLASS magazine writer Peter Yeoh and John Carpenter of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for kindly organizing and having us at the event.

A MOTHER SPEAKS (an excerpt from NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA)
Poetry by Yuri Kageyama

Please listen and tell the world.
How our children in Fukushima are getting thyroid cancer, one by one.
My daughter is one of them.
Pediatric thyroid cancer is rare.
The chance for getting it is under one in a million.
One in a million.
But in Fukushima, it’s 112 out of 380,000 children tested, and the tally is growing.
This is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
Beautiful Fukushima, where rice paddies stretch between lazy mountains.
Beautiful Fukushima, where snow falls everywhere like fluffy rice.
Beautiful Fukushima, where, when spring finally comes, cherry trees explode in pink chiffon.
But this is Fukushima after Three-Eleven.
No other place in Japan is like that.
No other place in the world is like that _ except for the Ukraine and Belarus.
But they say these cases are turning up because we are looking so much harder, testing all the children in Fukushima.
The authorities say they are playing it safe.
When no one really feels safe
After Three-Eleven in Fukushima.
My little girl got surgery and so her tumor was removed.
And the doctor told me: Aren’t you so lucky?
Aren’t you so lucky we did those tests to save your child?
If we hadn’t, the cancer might not have been found.
But I don’t feel lucky.
I don’t feel lucky at all.

Yuri Kageyama and Hirokazu Suyama Jackson at a Poetry reading in Tokyo

Yuri Kageyama and Hirokazu Suyama Jackson at a Poetry reading in Tokyo

MYTHICAL MONSTER (an excerpt from NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA)
poetry by Yuri Kageyama

The Catfish sleeps
Buried in the mud
Of meltdown metal
A black-light coastline
Fifty reactors
Tomari to Genkai

The Catfish moves
And the Earth rumbles
Sways its tail
And skyscrapers crumble
Swishes a whisker
Bridges, roads shatter

The Catfish grows
Bigger and bigger
Eight snake faces
Eight dragon tails
Volcanic eruption
Yamata no Orochi

The Monster lives
Our daughters and sons
Every year, a sacrifice
Hundred eight brave samurai
They’re all dead,
Trying to kill it

Hirokazu Suyama Jackson and Yuri Kageyamat at a poetry reading in Tokyo

Hirokazu Suyama Jackson and Yuri Kageyamat at a poetry reading in Tokyo

A Crow’s Request _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

crows
Crows by Hokusai

A Crow’s Request
_ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

We get a bum rap.
An utterly horrendous,
Misrepresentative rep;
They adore the others,
The herons, wagtails and ducks,
Even cooing pigeons
Calling them doves,
Symbols of peace,
But us _ we’re evil
Laden with germs
They’re setting traps
To kill us
To exterminate us
Though we’ve lived in the park
Longer than them
Minding our business
Raising our children
No different from anyone else

You have your nest
Of glass and steel
We have our nest
Up in the trees
Though unlike you,
We’re virtuous
We mate for life:
Why you see us flying
In twosomes
Crooked hearts in the sky
We bathe in mere puddles of water
We eat what we find
In the streets, on the ground;
True, we don’t chirp or twitter
And instead make scary
Cawing noises
We’re just communicating.
No different from anyone else.

We’re depicted scrounging garbage
Hanging out with witches
That’s just a stereotype
Concocted by a hostile media;
When we flock in the hundreds
Swarming in a dark cloud
Perch like a thousand commas
We evoke Hitchcock’s “Birds;”
But we inspired Hokusai, “Heckle and Jeckle,”
And the Japanese soccer team;
There’s a song about us crying:
“Kawaiiii, kawaiiii …”
Van Gogh drew us flapping in a field
Like a deathly holy ghost;
We collect shiny things
Like glass and buttons
Bringing them to children
To make them smile.

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA _ in NY in 2015 and in SAN FRANCISCO in July 2017

Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet.

in NY in 2015 and COMING TO SAN FRANCISCO in JULY 2017

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet
written by Yuri Kageyama
directed by Carla Blank

Debuted at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York Sept. 11 – 13, 2015.

Music directed and performed by Melvin Gibbs, with Hirokazu Suyama, Sumie Kaneko and Kaoru Watanabe.

The Cast:
Takemi Kitamura (Miu)
Monisha Shiva (Poet)
Shigeko Suga (Yu)

Lighting by Blu
Film by Yoshiaki Tago

A pensive and provocative theater of dance, poetry, music and film:
Fukushima is the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Radiation is still spewing from the multiple meltdowns, reaching as far as the American West Coast.
Some 100,000 people were displaced from the no-go zone. But the story barely makes headlines.
“News From Fukushima” is a solemn reminder and a literary prayer for Japan.
It explores the friendship between two women, juxtaposing the personal and the intimate with the catastrophic.

TR2

TR1

TR10

TR9

TR7

TR8

TR5

TR4

TR3

TR6

[caption id="attachment_1735" align="aligncenter" width="640"]NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA, written by Yuri Kageyama, at La MaMa. From left to right: Shigeko Suga, Monisha Shiva, Takemi Kitamura. Photo by Tennessee Reed. NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA, written by Yuri Kageyama, at La MaMa. From left to right: Shigeko Suga, Monisha Shiva, Takemi Kitamura. All Photos above by Tennessee Reed.

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musicians for NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet, written by Yuri Kageyama. Directed by Carla Blank. Music by Melvin Gibbs, Hirokazu Suyama, Sumie Kaneko and Kaoru Watanabe. In photo: Monisha Shiva as The Poet. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet, written by Yuri Kageyama. Directed by Carla Blank. Music by Melvin Gibbs, Hirokazu Suyama, Sumie Kaneko and Kaoru Watanabe. In photo: Monisha Shiva as The Poet. Photos by Yuri Kageyama.

Programs for NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet at La MaMa in New  York. Program design by Annette Borromeo Dorfman. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

Programs for NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet at La MaMa in New York. Program design by Annette Borromeo Dorfman. Photo by Yuri Kageyama.

And we get a little writeup in the local paper. The New York Times, among other local papers, including Steve Cannon’s “A Gathering of the Tribes,” listed our performance in its Calendar and Spare Time sections. The San Francisco Chronicle also highlighted our work in its Entertainment section.

article

Our NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet gets a mention in The San Francisco Chronicle

Our NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet gets a mention in The San Francisco Chronicle.

聴かせて魅せるニュース!『NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: 報じられない福島の大惨事を詩人が詠いあげる』でMelvin Gibbsがベースを奏でる。
News that enraptures and engages through Sound. A Poet sings of the unreported calamity at Fukushima in NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA, and Melvin Gibbs plays bass. _ Katsumi.

“Yuri Kageyama, with her epic poem, Fukushima, has earned a place among the leading world poets. This poem proves that the poet as a journalist can expose conditions that are ignored by a media that is in the pocket of fossils fuel and nuclear interests. While black collaborators at MSNBC and other media outlets make money for their employers by promoting and gender and class civil war among blacks, stories about how the Fukushima disaster threatens the health of world citizens are neglected, maybe because General Electric, which still has interests in NBC, built the nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Is the Yuricane making up things? Fukushima has had far worse complications than the Chernobyl disaster. Check this out.”
_ Ishmael Reed.