7TH ANNUAL NAPOMO 30/30/30 ::DAY 26:: MARC PIETRYZKOWSKI on OZAKI HOSAI


Welcome to the OS’s 7th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 Series! This year, contributors far and wide were gathered by four incredible curators, who are also our 2018 Chapbook Poets — you can read more about their curatorial intentions, their work, and a little more about the mission of the series here. You can navigate to the series archive, of nearly 200 entries, here!


This week’s curator is Jared Schickling, author of Needles of Itching Feathers, who writes that:

When I was contacted about curating a week’s lineup for The Operating System’s 30/30/30 series, I was intrigued with the call’s multicultural and internationalist stance. Consequently, I sought out poets who I thought would offer in their contributions a plurality of cultural reference points. They didn’t let me down: Crane Giamo writes on Swiss artist Dieter Roth; Brad Vogler on French poet Eugène Guillevic; Brenda Iijima on Panamanian American poet Roberto Harrison; moi on Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert and Russian poet Dmitry Golynko; Marc Pietrzykowski on Japanese poet Ozaki Hōsai; Michael Farrell on indigenous Australian poet Lionel Fogarty; Michael Boughn on Canadian poet Garry Thomas Morse; and Noah Falck on American poet Graham Foust. I hope the reader enjoys their contributions as much as I do.


Every day, for the last several weeks, I have woken up sad. Not depressed, not remorseful, not anguished, not even bleak, just sad, sad enough to make getting out of bed an exercise requiring several minutes to complete. I don’t mean to imply I ever leap out of bed ready to grab the day by the horns, but rather that I have to convince myself that the repercussions of simply staying prone would be injurious to myself and those I love. And so I get up, and am sad standing up, and sadly brush my teeth, and eat cereal, and feed the dogs. Sometime around mid-morning, the feeling is gone, without my noticing its departure.

I am solidly in middle age, and so often attribute strange drifts in mood to the mysterious biological displacements I am told accompany getting old. But why, then would I feel better a few hours later? My situation is envious: I have a home, plenty to eat and drink, a gracious wife who loves me and excuses all manner of artistic spasms as part of the course. I have no cancers that I am aware of, no palsy or even, currently, any broken bones or torn tendons. So, doctor, what ails me, why do I wake thinking this world a vacuous place barely worth acknowledging? And why does this feeling then simply fade away?

The torrent of shit that washes over me each day is largely my fault: I drive to work with the radio on, check my social media and news feeds a few times a day and recirculate little lumpy bits I think are important, read books I’ve been told are good by people I trust but have never met, watch movies, play video games, listen to music, go to bed. Getting blind drunk is a kind of respite from it all, a miniature retreat into a hermitage made of sloppy tears and wonky stairs, but it could be I need a more substantial escape. Poetry can help build a shack in the woods from time to time, but it can also prove part of the shit flood, so I must choose carefully. When I am brave, I explore, but when I am sad, I find myself drawn back to the familiar.

There is a book beside my bed — and in my library, I have three copies — by Ozaki Hōsai called right under the big sky I don’t wear a hat. See, I feel better already, typing the title. He was a drunk who found escape from his drunkenness by escaping the world, rejecting the life of a businessman in 19th/20th century Japan by becoming a Buddhist monk on an obscure island. Once he did, he started writing free verse haiku like this:


The toilet graffiti have grown autumnal
and this:
Unable to put a thread through a needle I look at the blue sky
and this:
A pomegranate opened its mouth, it’s silly love

The book has a few hundred of these, and I have, since discovering his work 25 or so years ago, read them all again and again. There are a few zuihitsu as well, essays that float like clouds, but it is the poems that sustain me, that usher me into a life outside of life, away from the things that make me worry about waking up sad. Of course I wake up sad, there is nothing unusual about it, and now that I understand that, again, I suspect I will wake tomorrow without sadness, wondering where the feeling went, if it traveled safely to the next person, thinking about what I should wear when it comes again, because it deserves more respect than I have shown such an important guest.


Marc Pietrzykowski lives and works and writes in Niagara County, NY, USA. He has published various and sundry poems, stories, and essays, as well as 8 books of poetry and 2 novels. His most recent book of poems, So Much Noise, and book of short stories, Monarchs of the Undertow, are available now. He also runs Pski’s Porch Publishing. You can visit Marc virtually atwww.marcpski.com, or www.pskisporch.com.