Tuesday, August 2, 2011

hanging a calligraphy

Yesterday, I bought a nice frame for a shiki-shi calligraphy that was a long-ago gift from a Shingon monk friend. It is one of my favorite characters -- "shin," meaning something like mind/heart -- but the execution is, to my eye, not all it might be. It is more a challenge than an invitation, more energetic than peaceful ...

I found the picture in the basement among other long-gone relics and decided to hang it up because I have fond memories of my friend, Jomyo Tanaka. I took a calligraphy class from him once. He told me at the time that I could be pretty good at it if I kept up a practice for four or five years. But I never did and as a result, my calligraphy is mediocre or worse... full of imbalance and insistence and goal-oriented intention and ... well, childish stuff.

My poor photo
While I was taking Jomyo's class, I was also in snailmail contact with a Zen monk in Japan -- Dokai Fukui -- and I once sent him something I had done to indicate my efforts. He wrote back kindly, and mentioned in passing that the calligraphy was "too strong." I was stung at the time, but I'm sure the criticism was not meant unkindly ... more an observation of fact. There is a fitness in calligraphy and when it's missing, it positively screams off the paper.

All of this sounds a bit airy-fairy, I suppose. It's not something for art mavens to discuss or dissect. But you can feel it in your gut and, for my money, your gut isn't lying. Calligraphy needs to be calm and clean and without the add-ons of courage or calamity, beauty or honesty. No one calls a calligraphy "great" or "beautiful." Calligraphy when it's any good, just allows you to swim ... and swim in an unnameable good company. It is and you is and that's the end of it... no more talk about "two" or "one."

Anyway, I hung it up and remember Jomyo fondly and am grateful for his gift and for the inspiration it gives me, however idiotic that inspiration may be.


  1. Your photo resembles two breasts to me and the heavy handedness... perhaps some misplaced infantile agression . Its early . more coffee is needed , ...Anita

  2. cup of water?

    in my hands

    rain filled them

    drink down the solution

    now sit up