broken poetry for broken times

Like many of you, I feel the need to bear testament now more than ever, to memorialize lost lives in the face of so much terror. Every day is scarred, and sacred.

I often write about the wabi-sabi beauty of broken things, particularly the Japanese craft of Kintsukoroi – reassembling and healing shattered bowls, vases, and mugs with gold enamel – holding the brokenness together. Kintsukoroi is often described as “broken pottery,” a term that I misread (as I often do) as “broken poetry.” 


The idea struck me – broken poetry. I wondered what a broken poem would look and sound like; all hard edges, like falling glass? Knives piled precariously one atop the other? 

I wondered if the sharp edges of the poems would need fixing — if I could gilt the wounds of broken poems like Kintsukoroi pottery, healing with gold enamel in the sutures where blood would be.  These shattered days and minutes look like Kintsukoroi above our pulse points: watch-faces with gold second hands like ephemeral lines of enamel healing one moment to another. 

After having lived in a remote fishing and rice-farming village in northern Japan for six years, I find that Japanese philosophies resonate with me and heal me. The shushed voices, whispers, offerings, bent bodies and humility.

These Broken Poems are my attempt, in some minuscule way, if only for myself, to heal these broken days, to glue shards of newscasts to the muses. 

I’ll fill a vessel with each day’s losses, overflowing with nothingness until the jars break. I’ll line up the vessels of my broken poetry on a shelf and know that I have held the shrapnel in my hands, reunited bit to bit, and filled the cracks and hairline fractures with gold. Each scar will shine its jagged smile across the shelf. 

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