Life suddenly _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama May 9, 2020

Music by Lorian Belanger inspired May 15, 2020 by “Life Suddenly,” a poem by Yuri Kageyama written May 9, 2020.

life suddenly seems so bare,

absent of distractions and noise,

honed down to essentials:

food, water,

the daily dosage of exercise,

sleep, working from home,

buying online,

safety from disease.

you realize life

is still,

alone,

full of meaning that is

so fragile

and easily lost.

MY TWO FILMS OFFICIAL SELECTIONS AT TOKYO LIFT-OFF FILM FESTIVAL

The Tokyo Lift-Off Film Festival has selected not just one but two of my films for the event in June 2020 _ NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA and THE VERY SPECIAL DAY.

Thanks to the organizers for believing in my vision. And thanks to all the artists who put up with me and worked on the films. We are all so looking forward to taking part in the event.

Both films are screening (online as the event has moved because of the coronavirus outbreak) MON June 22 ~ SUN June 28, 2020.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY is showcased in the “Newcomers Short” section for Short Films, while NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA is in the “Trendsetters” section for Feature Documentaries at the Tokyo Lift-Off Film Festival.

I AM THE VIRUS _ a poem in homage of Ishmael Reed By Yuri Kageyama

artwork by Munenori Tamagawa


I AM THE VIRUS _ a poem in homage of Ishmael Reed

By Yuri Kageyama

(Written SUN March 22, 2020 as the world fights the pandemic over the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and I continue to be aghast at the utter lack of integrity among the supposedly best of us, the ignorance, selfishness, ugliness. )

I am the virus

I thrive on mossy envious egos

They keep showing up

Offices, clubs, picnics,

Choosing being seen, hoarding

Over social dis-tan-cing

I am the virus

I fester in corona-shaped clusters

Commuter trains, cruises, crowds  

Peering at the Olympic torch,

I love the naming “Chinese virus”

The taunts, attacks on slant-eyed people

I am the virus

I cower when folks stay in

Takeout food, work from home,

A meter apart on solitary walks,

Wearing masks, washing hands,

Mixing aloe and alcohol

I am the virus

The crazy evil devoured

By doctors, vaccines, canceled concerts

Turning into live-streamed music,

People who remember to tell those they love

How much they really love them

RANDOM RENEGADE RENGA by TAYLOR MIGNON and YURI KAGEYAMA

Taylor Mignon _ photo by Joe Zanghi

RANDOM RENEGADE RENGA   

Written by Taylor Mignon and Yuri Kageyama

In Tokyo Spring 2020 as the World trembles in face of the Pandemic but Poets believe in the Power of the Word   

Santana muzak Oye Como Va

Make us yearn for Devo lounge

Digging Mi Ritmo in our Minyo village

Enya to tto Enya to tto Tito Puente

 —

 On the black sugar cane field a hurricane

 saved by voices: Ne Nezu & Yuricane

 —

 He came to her room, said little then went on

 To kill himself; jisatsu nante zurui (自殺なんてズルイ) So selfish so selfish

 —

彼は誰?何と言うてました?なんで自殺したんだろう。「質問祭り」

 —

The Poet with The Questions

 Taylor Mignon Taylor Mignon? Taylor Mignon!

Kageyama encapsulates tortoise mountain, Turtle Island & Yaponesia cornucopia

 —

Taylor is Razor Music entwined, David Bowie James Brown

Red Hot Chili Peppers George Clinton the Parliament-Funkadelic

Peter Tosh dangerous, yes to DB, P-Funk, JB —pass on Chili—am more Epic

Epic Poet Taylor screaming Eternal Tokyo  

Ephemeral this world this thought this poem

My Name Is Rio skips in this stuck lift, Duran Duran sand dance

The scream of poetry that pierces Tokyo

Hear him scream

(notes for Taylor reading: screams loud and long)

The funkqueen of poesie that grooves Tokyo

(Hear her riff, adlib or skat)

From funk fusion to depa-chika to Icarus galaxy to Joni Mitchell and back,

Taylor and Yuri are done but only for now    

AN UNDENIABLE FACT A haiku by Yuri Kageyama March 8, 2020 8:55 a.m.

AN UNDENIABLE FACT

A haiku by Yuri Kageyama

March 8, 2020 8:55 a.m.

Some

Writing

has no

Soul

No Voice (No Story being told)

It

Comes

from

Within

SOME PEOPLE a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Artwork by Munenori Tamagawa

SOME PEOPLE a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Some people are Poison
In sheer Presence
Even from afar
Some people are Garbage
A stench of Gibberish
Even from afar
Some people are Ineffectual
A blob hanger-on
Even from afar
Some people are Broken
A Godzillion pieces
Never whole again
Some people are Forgotten
Hidden unbleedingly silent
Into the flesh of scars
Some people are Music
Wafting healing savory sweet
Even from afar

A story shared from prison by Yuri Kageyama

I met the former inmate behind this story a few years ago, in 2016, when I was putting together my story “The Very Special Day” with artwork by Munenori Tamagawa. I was thinking of just stapling together printouts, but the visual artist had other ideas. He wanted a real book, and he said he knew someone who knew how to design books, a skill, as it turned out, he had learned in a Japanese prison. I didn’t ask questions. I just assumed he had committed a serious crime because of the long time he had been incarcerated, but felt he deserved to be treated no different from anyone else as he had served his time. I did not even know until he told me his story that he was asserting his innocence. This is his story:

He spent 15 years behind bars for a murder he confessed to, but he says he didn’t commit. His father hanged himself in shame. While in prison, he bit off a piece of his arm in a suicide attempt. Placed on half a dozen tranquilizer pills, he was an addict by the time he finally got out, four years ago.

Fengshui Iwazaki, who has changed his name to protect himself from the social backlash, is still trying to adjust to being back in the real world.  

“Fifteen years _ that’s a whole generation in a lifetime,” he says, his eyes clear, child-like, much younger than his 41 years. 

His story underlines the treatment convicts get in Japan, a society that’s so insular and crime-free most people don’t know much about what it’s like to live the life of a criminal. The arrest of Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, charged with financial misconduct, is helping bring international scrutiny to this legal system, which human rights groups have long criticized as harsh and unfair.

Iwazaki had never before spoken to me about his experiences, how two decades ago, he had made headlines as a murderer.   

“It was as though I was a monster,” Iwazaki recalled.          

^____<

Iwazaki and others who went through Japan’s criminal system say prosecutors and police come up with a story-line for a confession. While interrogated, Iwazaki was taken to the mountains where the body had been found and directed to point in the right spots, he said.

His girlfriend had been strangled to death, and he instantly emerged the prime suspect.

He resisted at first but signed the confession after three weeks of being interrogated daily without a lawyer present, standard practice in Japan.

He says he was bullied, his hair pulled, the table banged. After a while, it was easy to cave in.  

He believes the real murderer might be the man who had adopted his then-3-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. He had planned to live near her someday, not ever telling her he was the father, just to be close to her. She died in a car accident while he was serving time. 

Prosecutors say they are merely doing their jobs and didn’t create the system.

Defense lawyers say suspects sign false confessions and don’t realize it’s too late to assert innocence later in a trial.

That’s why it is called “hostage justice.”

Judges tend to believe the prosecutors’ story line: the conviction rate in Japan is higher than 99%.

Going against such a powerful trend takes tremendous courage. Unlike the U.S., prosecutors can appeal, meaning innocent verdicts can get overturned in a higher court.

^___<

The life of imprisonment Iwazaki describes is austere, isolated and regulated. Each prisoner gets a tiny cell with a toilet and bedding, unless the prison gets crowded and cells get shared, a condition that’s increasingly rare.

Communication among inmates is limited to the 30 minutes of outdoor exercise, or the evening hours, during which TV is allowed.

Whenever inmates are transported, they wait in enclosed booths lined next to each other so prisoners won’t mingle, called “bikkuri-bako,” or “jack-in-the-box.”   

Every morning, the convict changes into green prison garb and gets marched to a factory within the prison grounds.

Iwazaki did menial work like placing wooden chopsticks into paper wrapping and packing them in boxes. He also learned how to work the printing presses.

The toughest time was his three-year solitary confinement doled out as punishment for being a troublemaker, he said.

One time, out of frustration, he smashed a window with his bare hand, which added half a year to his sentence.

He was always curious about why others were locked up.

One inmate, he learned, had tried to steal money from an ATM to send his son to college. When a guard found him, he used a stun gun. The guard had a weak heart and died. And so the charge became murder while committing grand larceny, a serious offense.

“There are no really bad people in prison,” Iwazaki says with a conviction that is startling.  

^____<   

There is little in Japanese society that helps people adjust to life after incarceration.

When Iwazaki was released, he only had 1,000 yen ($9). He checked into a hospital, pleading insanity. He was running out of the pills prescribed at the prison.

He finally made it to Eizo Yamagiwa, a filmmaker who has devoted his life to supporting prisoners. Yamagiwa, who had visited Iwazaki in prison, gave him money, and Iwazaki finally made it home to his mom.

Yamagiwa says only the authorities’ side of the story gets relayed in Japan, influencing judges and juries so that trials tend to merely work as rubber-stamps for the prosecutors.

The prison system, he said, is so devastating most people come out sick and unable to continue with their lives.

He said Iwazaki was an exception in working hard to live a normal life.

^___<          

Iwazaki, who had originally planned to become a schoolteacher, has had his life forever changed.

Retrials to try to overturn guilty verdicts are rarely granted in Japan. Usually, totally new evidence such as a DNA test is needed.

Iwazaki is hesitant even to try. His case is tough because of the mounds of evidence submitted during his trial, including his confession. His mother has asked he doesn’t pursue a retrial; she doesn’t want to think about any of it ever again.

Iwazaki lives alone in a stark room with a tiny drab kitchen and a bathroom. A desk and two chairs are the only furniture.

On the walls are two drawings signed Masahiro, a man who died on death row. Done meticulously and entirely by pen and pencils, one depicts a bouquet of red roses, the other, Mary and baby Jesus. No one except for Iwazaki had claimed them.

Iwazaki also drew pictures while in prison: A big close-up of his open mouth filled with pills, a bird’s eye view of his cell, an inmate working so hard in the factory he is turning into a blur.

The drawings were part of a show of “art by outsiders” in April 2019, in Tokyo, a milestone for Iwazaki. While in prison, authorities had forbidden such exhibits.

Iwazaki is also in a training program to counsel addicts. He already works as a counselor, having studied various therapy methods, which he says helps calm him. Completing the training means better pay.   

He has also found a girlfriend, a carefree woman who works at a dot.com and is passionate about saving lions in Africa. They plan to get married and maybe have children.


.

Graves for the Living _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

GRAVES FOR THE LIVING _ a poem by Yuri Kageyama

Graves aren’t for

Those Buried only

They’re for those

Who’re still Alive _

They don’t Speak Back,

They don’t expect Much,

Ready to be Forgotten

If not already Forgotten;

So Go There,

To the Graves,

While You Live,

To Be Forgiven:

Graves Are

Gifts From the Dead

For the Living.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY _ A CHILDREN’S BOOK by YURI KAGEYAMA with PICTURES by MUNENORI TAMAGAWA; Also A FILM BY HAYATTO

Cover for the children's book THE VERY SPECIAL DAY by Yuri Kageyama with pictures by Munenori Tamagawa.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY is also a film by stop motion artist HAYATTO (August 2019). PLEASE WATCH FOR SCREENINGS.

The trailer:

A birthday is very special for any little boy.
And a little boy is very special for any parent.
This book is an everyday but very special story about the trials and joys of growing up in an imperfect world.
THE VERY SPECIAL DAY by Yuri Kageyama (first published in KONCH, Ishmael Reed Publishing Co., 2013).

A TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN 2016 publication picture book, with Illustrations by Munenori Tamagawa, Book design by Fengshui Iwazaki.

FOR ORDERS for the book, please go to this artist Munenori Tamagawa’s link , or write to us, using the contact section of this site.

A story about how a defiant young woman tries to make a birthday a very special day for her child all by herself.
A story about how discrimination begins in the home, and how the fight against discrimination also begins in the home.
A story about ice cream at a birthday party and French Fries at the aquarium.
A story about how “they didn’t like us because we were Japanese American, and not Japanese.”
A story about how stars can be that cure-all ideal but no-cost spiritual present.
A story that’s a bit sentimental but honorable and true, written for all the children in the world.
May they stay safe, may they enjoy peace, may they find love and may they know who they really are.

Reading THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen Tokyo SUN. Oct. 23, 2016.

Reading THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen Tokyo SUN. Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

OUR READING OF THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen, Tokyo, SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Featuring Live Painting by Munenori Tamagawa, the illustrator of the book.
Left to Right: Yuri Kageyama (writer and storyteller), Hiroshi Tokieda (bass), Munenori Tamagawa (visual artist), Ryan Carter (guitar) and Kouzan Kikuchi (shakuhachi). PHOTOS by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016.

Our Reading of THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Inokashira Koen SUN Oct. 23, 2016. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

So I thought about what could be a very special day for Mama, and so I asked her: “Mama, what would you like to do on your funeral?”
Mama stopped moving all of a sudden, and I thought she might even spank me because it was so all of a sudden, though she hardly ever ever ever spanks me.
That was how sudden it was.
Then she went back to normal and said, “I want a lot of beautiful music.”
So I said very quickly to catch up with her suddenness, “Mama, I will play that music. I will.”

_ Excerpt from “The Very Special Day,” a story first published in KONCH: Ishmael Reed Publishing Co. 2013, and a TOKYO FLOWER CHILDREN picture book, published 2016.

More photos from Inokashira Park courtesy park organizers:

06

BOOK PARTY free admission
featuring LIVE PAINTING by Munenori Tamagawa and poet Yuri Kageyama’s YURICANE spoken-word band with Kouzan Kikuchi (shakuhachi), Hiroshi Tokieda (bass), Trupti (vocals), Hirokazu Suyama (tabla).
Special Guests Kenwood Dennard, Biankah Bailey, Jacqueline Mujaya , Taylor Mignon and more.
SUN Aug. 7, 2016 2 p.m. Infinity Books. 1F Komagata Bashi Heights Bldg , 1-2-4 Azumabashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 130-0001
SAT Aug. 13, 2016 2 p.m. Demi Cafe in sora Gallery. 3-14-1 Honcho Kokubunji-shi, Tokyo 85-0012

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY book party at Infinity Books in Tokyo SUN Aug. 7, 2016.

THE VERY SPECIAL DAY book party at Infinity Books in Tokyo SUN Aug. 7, 2016. Photos by Emiko Tokai.

Live Painting with the reading.

Live Painting with the reading.

Kenwood Dennard, professor at Berklee College of Music, reads his poetry at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY

Kenwood Dennard, professor at Berklee College of Music, reads his poetry at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY

Jackie Mujaya speaks about Tanaganika Kids at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Infinity Books in Tokyo.

Jackie Mujaya speaks about Tanaganika Kids at THE VERY SPECIAL DAY at Infinity Books in Tokyo. Cherie Willoughby, at right, who also read her poetry.

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.