Transitional Delights (Background)

As winter approached in 2016 I found myself playing around with a project idea involving typing—with actual typewriters—on photographs or perhaps negatives. I had purchased thirty-five typewriters over the course of that autumn to use in a video project and I was casting about for additional ideas that might be interesting that involved typewriters. It was an unusual resource to have and I hoped I might make use of it again before I sold or gave them away. each typewriter types in its own way, each one has its own character.

So I was playing with the idea of text typed on photographs, or perhaps upon negatives and then scanned. Then I began to consider using old photographs, antique store finds, instead of my own imagery. I was playing with different images, different kinds of text.

One of the kinds of text I was experimenting with was poetry. I was drawn to a series of poems by Tachibana Akemi, a Japanese poet from the middle 1800s. He seems to have been something of a recluse but he was groundbreaking in that he wrote about a wide variety of topics outside of the traditional ones of love and natural beauty.

When I was young, before I dropped into college, I was quite taken by a poem of his called “The Silver Mine,” translated by Donald Keene. The poem is short, quite simple, but after reading it the words grew on me and their meaning deepened. To my surprise I still had the book, purchased at some Goodwill in Ohio thirty-some years ago. 

Tachibana often wrote in the Takata form, a form similar to the more well-known Haiku. The takata ia made up of five lines, with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables respectively. It is unrhymed.

The progression of the idea was not so neat as I might make it seem. I was also looking at other kinds of poems, other kids of texts. It was more or a swirl of ideas rather than a linear progression.

It was in the Keene book that I came across (again, thirty years later) the other poems by Tachibana, a series of takata called “Solitary Delights.” In these he shared little moments during the day, the delights of reading and understanding a book found difficult by his peers, the delight of an undesired guest, leaving at last. He also wrote about politics, and you get the clear sense that he was unhappy with the current powers of the time but perhaps helpless to change things—and thus, maybe his “Solitary Delights” were in a way a protest against the life of his time, a way of finding what small pleasures still existed in life when there was no pleasures to be found amongst the larger things.

When Donald Trump unexpectedly won the White House on November 8 I realized that Tachibana’s “Solitary Delights” was the perfect model for me to adapt. I wrote one “Transitional Delight” for each day of the transition (with a “bonus poem on November 29th) taking for my inspiration the news of the transition for that day. Each night a poem was published to my Instagram and Facebook feeds.

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