I found this poem by Roger Keyes — an art historian, East Asian Studies scholar, and a poet. Despite being called “Hokusai Says,” Hokusai didn’t write it, Roger Keyes wrote it. He did so after studying and thoroughly absorbing Hokusai Katsushika’s artwork. They’re Roger’s words, but what he has taken away from the great master’s art. What he thought he was trying to say. with it. One person says it’s the “translation of visual art into written words.”
I somehow have missed it all these years, but I find it so poignant and lovely and something I’m happy I stumbled across right at the end of the year, right before the start of the new one.
Oh, I timed it so this will post at the exact time of sunrise over the ocean on a cold Yaizu beach on January 1st. I should be there, too, all bundled up, snapping a photo or two and a making some wishy wishes for 2024. I’ll also be thanking the great Universe for all of you. I’ll put in a good early word for you as well.
Wishing you all a very wonderful, creative, peaceful, and powerful Year of the Dragon! 🙏🐲💪✨
Now to the poem.
Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself
as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive—
shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
are life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.