Sunday, April 27, 2008


So, although I've thought about doing this off and on for awhile, the impetus to actually start came from reading a beautiful poem in the latest Paris Review, which, in case anyone happens to be reading this in the future, is the Spring 2008 issue. It is called 'Badger Disguised as a Monk--a netsuke', and is written by Elizabeth Spires. In case you aren't familiar with the word, a netsuke is a toggle that closes a purse or bag, worn on a cord hung from the sash or obi of a kimono. Often these were (and are) carved as tiny figures, and a whole tradition of artistry evolved over time. If you ever get a chance to see a netsuke collection, by all means go see it, as you can spend hours marveling over the intricacy and charm of these miniature carvings.

Spires' poem takes a popular subject for netsuke carvers--the badger, who disguises himself as a monk for his own nefarious ends--and imagines an inner life for him. This wise little poem evokes much of the Japanese folk tradition that inspired it, yet inflects it to Spires' own ends.

Seek it out.

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