The work of Japanese poet and painter Tomihiro Hoshino is something of a recurring thought in my mind and on three occasions his poems and paintings have been featured in the pages of this blog, the last as recently as last month. A return to that theme so soon is only because on my recent trip to Louisiana I was lucky enough to come across in a New Orleans bookstore Hoshino’s fourth book, Journey of the Wind, published first in Japanese in 1982, with an English translation following six years later. But each time I sit with a book by this artist a sense of freshness and renewal lifts off the pages and into my heart. His words, as well as his pictures are the very essence of simplicity, but perhaps it is that humble plainness, the spareness of his art that engulfs the reader.
To recap briefly, Hoshino suffered a paralyzing accident as a young man of twenty-four and spent nine years in the hospital before regaining the strength and abilities to make a life at home possible. During those years in a hospital bed, able to move only his head he taught himself to write and paint holding a brush in his mouth. Even to this day forty-two years later someone must assist him by holding his palette within reach of the brush in his mouth. He has inspired a generation of Japanese and others around the world.
In Journey of the Wind Hoshino opens his forward with these words…
‘I am very happy to begin a new journey to faraway places by means of the brush held in my mouth.
The winter mountains are ranged before me. Covered with the fallen leaves of trees, they are warm-coloured like the tail of a squirrel. Perhaps this is Nature’s consolation to us in the cold weather.’
Pear Blossom (1980)
Camellia flowers, I hear,
drop down like severed heads
People say that under cherry trees
dead bodies are buried
Gold-banded lilies, I hear,
like the sound of people moaning
People say that the spider lily
blooms best in grave-yards
Flowers, beautiful as you are,
why is death so near you?
What are the bonds between beauty
and human life?
Sasanqua, or Japanese camellia (1981)
I felt someone was looking at me
I turned my wheel-chair
A small flower was blooming there
Cherry Blossoms (1977)
Pushing my wheel-chair under a cherry tree
my friend pulled down a branch in full bloom
burying my face in blossoms
With a surge of ungovernable joy
I bit off a mouthful of blossom
eating the pink-white petals
munching and munching
The links below are to other poems and paintings by Tomihiro Hoshino.