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The Blue Moon Review
 

 
Rosanjin
(b. Kamigano, 1883; d. Yokohama, 1959)
by Stephen Burt

All arts are one.

So what to serve in cobalt-fired leaf,

crosshatched ellipse, or broad enameled square?

How should one slice pale turbot washed in frigid water--

thick on a grey day, fine when there is sun?



o



He often remembered aloud his days in bed--

aged seven, mortally ill,

curled up and heaving, scar-pale, and craving



mud snails.

So his mother quarreled with the doctors,

who reasoned that he'd die soon anyway;

thus persuaded, she brought



mud snails.

He recovered fully, if slowly.

To this day I am fond of mud snails.



o



At ten, he stood still, near shock

in the path before the market,

overcome by awe

at the glistering cylinders cut from wild boar.



o



Wanted: second cook

for Hoshigaoka, 1934.

Required: passion. Must have been judged "eccentric"

from your devotion to food.

Required: excellent health.

Must invent food for each season and every year.

Must yearn to remain

famous for your cooking in times to come.



o



I came to ceramics through my love of food.

Delicious food required plates

to match. And so I took up lacquerware...

Here is a charger I made, a square

with raveled, rolling edge.

The cracks here show its history of use.



Most potters are artisans merely, neither proud

nor worthy of much pride.

Yet a bowl for tea, once dropped and smashed,

would merit no price at all.



o



The golden-tint bonheur

of a perfect square contains

a circular space where a few bright meals might go.



The crispy, curvy, edges of soft eel.



I can no longer take pleasure

in dishes I have not prepared.

It is possible to know too much.



o



People who want to eat well

have only to choose what they like

and prepare it as they like.

Most, however, have no idea what they enjoy.

So few understand

how flavors interact,

or know the work at all...



Photographed in the last

year of his life, he leans

impulsively over a screen

on which he writes in black curves, with a brush

whose bright length points straight up.

Advancing through him, every stroke he makes

reverberates--

                    Quick taste

whose patience and impatience work as one.




Stephen Burt teaches at Macalester College in St Paul, Minn.; his first book of poems, Popular Music, won the Colorado Prize for 1999. The next one, Parallel Play, will appear from Graywolf in 2005.

For more on Rosanjin, see Sidney Cardozo and Masaaki Hirano, The Art of Rosanjin (Tokyo and New York: Kodansha, 1987), trans. Juliet Winters Carpenter. Passages in italics derive (sometimes verbatim, sometimes paraphrased) from Rosanjin's own writings, translated therein.

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