Volcano Pilgrim
Five months in Japan as a wandering poet

The Volcano Pilgrim – 火山巡礼者

“This is part of the sublime / From which we shrink,” says Wallace Stevens. He is thinking of Pompeii and Vesuvius, of cities and civilizations laid low by disaster, of the utter indifference of geology to humanity.

The Volcano Pilgrim has dedicated the last three years to the belief that one need not shrink from the sublime. Nay, rather, one may seek it out, with a pack on your back and a stick in your hand,  liberal applications of sunblock and when necessary a gas mask over your face.

He recognizes that chasing this particular dragon may not strike some people as entirely healthy or balanced behavior, but the nature of that imbalance is one of the things he hopes in the course of the journey to understand.

And he has found that, when you’re clambering up the side of a smoking mountain, driven by apocalyptic fantasies of fiery death, many things may catch your attention along the way – birds, beasts, flowers, people. Though he doubts Basho would have shared his love for lava, he suspects the master would recognize the restlessness that sends one out searching for it.

Having survived Sicily, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia and Perú, he turns now to the far rim of the Ring of Fire, Japan. In the next five months, expect trips to the deserted islands of Ozu and Tokara, to Asamayama, to the smoldering mountains of Kyushu, and of course to the peak of volcanic pilgrimage itself, Mount Fuji.

Material from these journeys will hopefully be someday collected in An Exchange for Fire, a growing assortment of prose poetry / lyric essay / nikki / travelogue / haibun / what have you. To keep himself honest, he is posting daily (well, mostly daily) updates from the road. Feel free to weigh in and call him to task if he doesn’t.

(A thousand thanks are due to the Japan-US Friendship Commission, the NEA and the International House of Japan, for the award of the US-Japan Creative Artists Residency that is making this project possible — though naturally none of them should be held even remotely responsible for its content).

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