Gaijin Diary by Michael Boiano
(with the following introduction by James Kirkup)
I first encountered the unique poetic work of Michael Boiano in the Japanese magazine “The Tanka Journal” which featured his poetry under the pen-name “Aziz.” This is a brave young magazine that specializes in international tanka in both classical and “free” forms. As I am an ardent proponent of the true classical form of tanka in five lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables, I was immediately attracted to Michael and his formal style, that yet sounded natural and musical, in contrast to the mostly shapeless English tanka composed by most of the other foreign (and even some Japanese) writers.
Michael has a deep sense of the absurd in daily life, and some of his encounters with the Japanese are, as I can confirm from personal experiences in Japan, both comic and true; and sad to say, typical of a certain kind of Japanese mentality that is still far from “international” and looks down on foreigners as creatures from another planet. (Fortunately, not all Japanese are like that!) Here is one example of Michael’s acute sensitivity:
Grooming his own yard
with a toothbrush and tweezers,
my next-door neighbour
nonchalantly tosses his
cigarette over my fence.
But all is not bitterness in Michael’s heart and mind. He touches nature, flowers, insects, animals, with a delicately adoring touch:
April’s sweet flowers
slumber yet beneath the earth,
the kindness of a stranger
having begun Spring in me.
In this many-colored tapestry of poetic sensibilities, there are some very brilliant, deeply expressive threads of emotion. For this book is really the story of a strange love between the poet and a girl who is often absent, far away in foreign lands or in remote parts of Japan. The mingled happiness and sorrow or loving and parting, of waiting and meeting again, fills this book with almost unendurable longing and regrets, always expressed with heart-felt sincerity and sensitivity:
Apart New Year’s Eve:
me here, her in Italy.
How can I not wonder
whose lips will be seeking hers
as the clock chimes midnight?
Michael is a true tanka poet, in art and in spirit. I find myself returning again and again to all the remembered beauties, visions, and to the ironic cameos of this unusual collection. He now lives in Thailand: but his poems prove that Japan is still his spiritual and literary home.
James Kirkup, who lived from April 23, 1918 to May 10, 2009, wrote this introduction shortly before his death.
The book may be purchased at Amazon and other online book stores
Reader responses follow.
I have come to know Michael, a fellow blogger, as a generous and wise man. A man with whom I share the love for a kind of beauty that is both delicate and tranquil. His poetry is a wonderful example of that beauty, exposing, in the most simple of words, what moves him. Every poem is a journey into his soul, inviting you to listen silently and to enjoy the trip. It is a pleasure to accept his invitation, time and again. The main thread of his book is his longing for a love who is often out of reach due to distance and circumstance. Moving from hope to longing, to the sweetness of requited love, he waits, wonders, and listens, finding cues, solace, and analogies in nature, all in a culture that is not his own. Though what he experiences is his personal story, it tells us that no matter where it is experienced, love, with its joys and challenges, is universal, common to all cultures no matter how different. Along the way in this book, Michael's journey becomes one's own. His little vignettes show a the ambiguities and small subtle joys of those who venture into the world of love. He joins Japanese culture and people in sharing life at its deepest level, and through humor and passion he most assuredly shares a spiritual affinity. Highly recommended to anyone who is fascinated by Japan and its culture, and who may understand the agonies and joys of longing. -- Job Honig, photographer, Republic of China
I'm here in the eternity to write down these words. It can't be more paradoxical that Michael's spirit is unable to be "seen" by the people he encountered in the land where Zen has been settling for over 800 years, because his work is exceedingly approaching to the quintessence of Zen, except for the sombre emotion and the sensibility he possesses *intrinsically*. The skeletons of his poems are meticulously adumbrated by the minimalist terms he selected. My eyes are "touching" the skeletons while my soul is in contact with those parts subtly coexist in the midst. As the subject of a painting is not always these objects arranged in the composition. Sometimes the misunderstanding forms the beauty, and also the estrangement. The "foreigner" and the "Japanese" seem more close to the Nouns between the two. Hence, there's often an invisible fence obstructing in their hearts, not merely in the reality. Maybe he is destined to suffer from the impasses with certain human beings, but it's obvious that the nature will never trap him into the unrequited love, and he certainly has perceived that. Aegea Hsieh, photographer, Republic of China