[What follows – my introductory note & Richard Johnny John’s account of his life as a traditional singer & songmaker – was originally published in Alcheringa, the journal of ethnopoetics that Dennis Tedlock and I co-published & co-edited in the early 1970s.
Translation from Japanese by Hiromi Ito & Jerome Rothenberg
It was Sugaru of the Little Boy Clan who was the chancellor of the Emperor Yuryoku, as vital to him as his heart and liver. One day when when the Emperor was residing at Iware-no-Miya palace and was having sex there with his wife, Sugaru burst into the chamber and the Emperor, feeling shame, broke off his foreplay. At that moment they heard thunder and the Emperor told Sugaru: Go forth now and send a summons to the God of Thunder. Sugaru replied that he would go. The Emperor then proclaimed: Go forth and send a summons to the God of Thunder.
[What follows is the sixth installment of Rochelle Owens’ Hermaphropoetics, a work in progress that continues the poetic & mythopoetic reach of her oeuvre as it has come to us since the 1960s. For me she remains, as she was when we first came to know her, a poet who bends the resources of language toward the revelation & creation of a new & always startling vision of the real & more-than-real. As I wrote of her back then: “There is a voice in Owens’ work … like a fierce and unrelenting force of nature. Sharp and visual, she combines a landscape with a poetics, the domestic with the mythic, machines with the organic living world from which arises a construct and a fused vision: poetry and life.” The photo image of the field on Mars that accompanies “Brown Dust” is a good example of what her work makes possible. (J.R.)]