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Japanese Jokes -- Peter Porter

       
(Poem #198) Japanese Jokes
    In his winged collar
he flew. The nation wanted
    peace. Our Perseus!

    William Blake, William
Blake, William Blake, William Blake,
    say it and feel new!

    Love without sex is
still the most efficient form
    of hell known to man.

    A professional
is one who believes he has
    invented breathing.

    The Creation had
to find room for the exper-
    imental novel.

    When daffodils be-
gin to peer: watch out, para-
    noia's round the bend.

    I get out of bed
and say goodbye to people
    I won't meet again.

    I sit and worry
about money who very
    soon will have to die.

    I consider it
my duty to be old hat
    so you can hate me.

    I am getting fat
and unattractive but so
    much nicer to know.

    Somewhere at the heart
of the universe sounds the
    true mystic note: Me.
-- Peter Porter
(for Anthony Thwaite).

[ sage, scribe and scholar;
translator of numerous
    Japanese poems. ]

"... [Porter's] main subject is the decadence of commercial western society, to
the analysis of which he brings a jaundiced and witty eye...
... the gnomic humour of these tiny poems is dry and abrasive...
... sometimes Porter manages to synthesize his view of the entire Universe into
a single sentence that seems so 'right' that we feel sure it has been written
before... "
    -- George MacBeth

"Elegist, satirist, art critic, historian of the imagination, poet of cats, and
the cities of London and the mind, student of the times and of Time."
    -- Sean O'Brien, Sunday Times.

    I can add nothing
to Porter's elegance, so
    I stop here - thomas.

42 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Russell said...

the notes might lead one to think that these short poems are actually translations. they're not. porter has ingeniously crafted original epigrams using a 5-7-5 syllable form, that's all. good for him!

puer senex

Russell said...

these poems are not, as your note seems to imply, translations, but original epigrams composed by pp and adapted to the 5-7-5 syllable japanese haiku form.

puer senex

Anonymous said...

:o

Anonymous said...

I find this poem to be rather humorous, as I believe it was intended. The poem is obviously critical of Western society, the last stanza even alludes to the narcissistic nature of our society. It is important to keep in mind that in Japaneses society individuals do not stand independently. The interdependence of the people is remarkable. The concept of honor (though I do admit it has it's vices) is held to impressive feat, as opposed to American society, that see's the concept of family not as the center point of their life, but rather themselves as the pinnacle, leaving family to be an affiliation.

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Jessica Paden said...

the first time i read this poem i misread the 3rd stanza as "sex without love is still the most efficient form of hell known to man." i guess that could be interpreted as the stereotypical gendered response (male: love w/o sex=worst; female: sex w/out love =worst), but to me what he writes rings just as true, it's just not as provocative. in other words, it was more interesting the way i misread it.

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