In the Gardens of Japan | poems by Kenny Fries

In The Gardens of Japan


Poet and non fiction writer Kenny Fries, in Japan first on the Japan-US Creative Artists' Exchange Fellowship and later on a Fulbright grant, composed the series of poems "In the Gardens of Japan" in 2002, inspired by several of Japan's famous gardens. In 2006 he collaborated with calligrapher and designer Yugo Yasuda to produce a limited edition tenugui (a traditional Japanese cloth "towel").


Fries described the process of writing his impressions of Japanese gardens:


Before arriving in Japan in May, 2002, I had not written a poem in over four years. Years of writing nonfiction made the medium of poetry seem incapable of expressing as much as I wanted to express.


This changed soon after I arrived in Japan. I was overwhelmed by an abundance of new cultural experiences and constantly faced with unfamiliar but emotionally encompassing sights and sounds. Among these experiences, two images began to stand out and pervade my thoughts: the irises of Meiji Jingu and the voice of singer Mika Kimula.


I began spending more time in the gardens of Japan. What emerged was a sequence of poems that on the surface describe what can be found in the gardens. However, just as Japanese gardens suggest a microcosm of what it means to be alive in a mortal world, the poetry pointed to deeper meanings below the surface.


Japanese gardens take you from the entrance, lead you through various meanderings and finally return you to the beginning. Likewise, my encounters with Japan led me back to poetry that, like the gardens, hold within them an entire world.


Detail of the tenugui


In the Gardens of Japan