Entry #35 – This Week’s Writing, Reading, & Music

ああ 負けないで 泣かないで

– Angela Aki, 「手紙〜背景十五の君へ〜」
lyrics from Genius

Hey all, Kohaku here. I hope everyone is healthy, doing well, social distancing and keeping their heads up in these rapidly changing times. As I wrote last time, it’s all too easy for people to become divided and start hurting or giving up on each other when life gets tough, so do make sure to stay connected with your loved ones as well as with strangers – don’t forget that we are all human.

Being stuck inside now and not having as much to do as usual, I’ve had a lot of time to write this week. So, I thought for today’s journal entry I’d first talk a little bit about the pieces I published these past few days.

On Monday and Tuesday I published two tanka, separation and chasing you as I. As tanka generally are, these short poems attempt to capture specific emotions in singular moments of time, but also expand that time frame or worldview into something more complex. My day-to-day tanka usually isn’t very good – I don’t spend too much time on them, and often when I publish tanka it’s because I didn’t have time to sit down and write a story or something longer. I also struggle a bit fitting English rhythmically into the structure, and most of my tanka to date has been in English. Occasionally a real gem will come out, though; 永遠の歌 from last year comes to mind. The two tanka this week, as you might expect, had a lot to do with feelings of separation, loss, change, and endings.

On Wednesday I published a free verse poem called reconstruction ~18/25/74~. I had a lot of fun with this one, playing with lines, spacing, shifting POVs and interrelated storylines in a way I haven’t really done before. Looking at the overall story, I think a lot of things remain very ambiguous and up to the reader’s interpretation – but doesn’t that make it more interesting? What do you guys think about the story, about the characters, about the meaning of 18/25/74? I’d be interested to hear what other people took away from it.

On Thursday I published a short story called Affinity. It was my first short story in a while. I really love writing short stories, they’re good fun, but they take a bit more time and energy than most other single publications. Affinity came out a lot better than I thought it would. Put very simply, the story is about the complex relationship between life and death, between desires for life and desires for death, and how sometimes they’re not as mutually exclusive or oppositionary as we like to think. I enjoyed writing the characters and their thoughts against an unclear backdrop of wartime martial law.

On Friday and Saturday I published the intro and first two parts of a new serial prose work called Synchronicity. In a way, it’s a partner or second side to Affinity, although that connection may not be totally clear yet. The epigraph to Synchronicity is a tanka I published some time ago called driver, rider, which gave birth to the beginning ideas that eventually led to this new work. How do you guys like it so far? I think my thoughts and feelings, what I want to convey with this piece, cannot reach you all yet with just these two first parts out. It’s more of a work that needs to be taken in as a whole to be truly understood. I’ll be working on it in the coming weeks and hopefully as each new part is written and published, more of my thoughts and feelings can be realized.

Besides writing, I’ve been listening to a lot of music. Sometime last week or the week before, I finally listened to ToshI’s solo cover album 「IM A SINGER」. I also listened to its sequel, but I like the first one better. It made me remember how much I like ToshI’s voice, and I enjoyed his renditions of familiar songs. For some reason I kept hitting replay, and now Angela Aki’s 手紙〜背景十五の君へ〜 is irreparably stuck in my head! Isn’t it just a very calming and uplifting song? I think the message of this song, to listen to yourself and believe in yourself and keep on living in the present even in the hardest of times, is very important and very relevant to what’s going on right now. Yesterday or the day before I also started listening again to exist†trace, one of my favorite vkei bands. It was my first time listening to them in a while, since a lot of their songs got removed from Spotify and YouTube for I’m not sure what reason (does anyone know? please do tell me). I’m remembering again how much I like their music, especially their 2014 album 「WORLD MAKER」and some songs off 「Vanguard -Of the Muses-」 and 「Twin Gate」. And right now, as I’m writing, I’m listening to Diaura’s 「FOCUS」after just having finished their debut album 「Genesis」. Diaura is new to me; I came across them literally earlier today while I was listening to a random YouTube vkei/jrock playlist, and I really liked their song that happened to be on it, so now I’m going through their discography. We’ll see if this shapes up to be my next music obsession! Oh, and this morning I saw a video on YouTube which was a wagakki (Japanese traditional instruments) band’s cover performance of X JAPAN’s 紅. At first it made me laugh (in a good way), but a minute or two in I couldn’t stop whispering “cool…” haha!

Sometime this week I started reading Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask. I’m probably 75% of the way through it, so I’ll be done by next week. I haven’t actually read any of Mishima’s works before, although Spring Snow has been sitting on my desk for quite some time at the recommendation of one of my younger friends. Confessions of a Mask reminds me in a lot of ways of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human – the prose is blunt, incredibly honest, and at times intellectual and philosophical. I can’t tell if I like this style yet, but it’s a good story, at any rate, and an important one.

Well, I think that’s a long enough summary of what I’ve been doing this week, at least the stuff that directly relates to my writing and art in general. What have you all been up to? In many countries, as in mine, a lot of people are under quarantine or lockdown or other stay-at-home orders – my recommendation is, keep your heads up, love each other, and don’t waste this time. Do something with your new daily life that is meaningful to you, to your loved ones, to the world. We don’t know what will happen next.

Take care of yourselves, as always.