Raj Arumugam

Katsushika Hokusai Talks To A Kind Stranger Or 'Gakyo Rojin Manji' (The Old Man Mad About Art) - Poem by Raj Arumugam

'Who are you? '
you ask
I was born Katsushika Hokusai
but I have changed my name
many times
for life comes in waves
and come a wave anew
one is not what was before
and so one changes one's name
and so now you might call me
Gakyō Rōjin Manji
(The Old Man Mad About Art)

You offer me some sake
and some meat
from your own bag
O fellow-traveler
I thank you
and I shall tell you
more of myself

I started sketching
from when I was six
and some called me an artist
but it was time
only after when I turned 50
that I made anything that drew some attention
and truly I drew nothing of worth
until after I turned 70
At 73
now I understand
the make and structure
the composition of birds, trees
the cicadas and the crane
and bamboo and pine

I should continue?
I will
And by the time I'm 86
I should grasp their essence

then by a 100
I should penetrate the force
the wave
in each creature, in life
and so by the time
I'm 140 or so
every dot, every line
in whatever I shall draw
will radiate with life, with energy
and that one might call art

Ah you look at
Gakyō Rōjin Manji
(The Old Man Mad About Art)
and you wonder
if this man is for real;
if he is but some old mad man who passes by
and you have given your food
to some teller of incredible lies
but as you have been kind
to give me food
be kind enough too
pray you at the shrine
of the Shinto gods
that I might live that long
so that what I make may truly be art

and now I thank you
for your kindness with this
sketch on the sand;
hold on to nothing
and aspire towards
what is perfection
Have a safe journey
As I have had thus far
and as I hope to have
from here to my next stop

< br>___________________________________

In the postscript "One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji", Hokusai writes:
"From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie." - from wikipedia

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 11, 2012

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