Tag Archives: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Anne Gorrick’s Kyotologic

Anne Gorrick © Elizabeth Bryant

Anne Gorrick is the author of I-Formation (Book One) (Shearman Books, 2010), the forthcoming I-Formation (Book Two), and Kyotologic (also from Shearsman Books, 2008). She collaborated with artist Cynthia Winika to produce a limited edition artists’ book, “Swans, the ice,” she said, funded by the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Images of her visual art can be found at The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows.
She curates the reading series Cadmium Text, which focuses on innovative writing from in and around New York’s Hudson Valley. She also co-curates the electronic poetry journal Peep/Show with poet Lynn Behrendt, which is a “taxonomic exercise in textual and visual seriality.” Anne lives in West Park, New York.

“In the winter, when it is very cold and one lies buried under bedclothes listening to one’s lover’s endearments, it is delightful to hear the booming of the temple gong, which seems to come from the bottom of a deep well. The first cry of the birds, whose beaks are still tucked under their wings, is also strange and muffled. Then one bird after another takes up the call. How pleasant it is to lie there listening as the sound becomes clearer and clearer!”
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
“Anne Gorrick’s first collection of poems is a remarkable reworking of themes from the 10th century Japanese memoir of Heian court life, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is the only evidence we have about how life was lived 1,000 years ago during the Heian period in Japan. That women enjoyed almost all the same freedoms as men … That a woman of this time produced what we consider to be the first modern novel … That poetry acted as an intrinsic cultural currency of the kind that is almost impossible to imagine today … These points serve as a continuing reminder of what poetry can be to culture.
Anne writes over and within the historic text of the Pillow Book and through various textual manipulations and colonizations, makes a new work out of it. An ancient Eastern text drunk on Western footnotes: Tristan Tzara, Susan Howe, Robert Duncan, Robert Desnos, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Modernity sewn flamboyantly over the holes of an old cloth, an ancient boro text/ile.”
“A densely beautiful book, young poems growing out of old poems, vines round an ancient pine. Imagine language talking to itself, all skin and rain and blossoms, scattering like leaves, seeming to remember some other country some other time—yet always being vividly present like a strange food you’ve taken into your mouth that’s too sweet—but after a moment, just barely sweet enough, as we get to like this world Gorrick has incarnated for us here, safe in our deepest feelings.”
– Robert Kelly
“In Kyotologic, Anne Gorrick takes Sei Shonagon’s poetic diaries as materials for a new performance of eccentric intimacy. A book of days that is also a “model of interruptions”, Gorrick’s work admits us as voyeurs, offers us mysterious routines in lieu of identity, and includes history (albeit processual history). Trust that this book is written in silk, cherries, and “with a good pen”, but don’t expect orientalism or even orientation, as such. The logic of Kyotologic is a cold engagement with personhood mediated by a world of things.”
– Aaron McCollough
161. On the Twenty-Fourth of the Twelfth Month
The Empress arranged that there should be a name
and for us a temple to aim for a secret tryst
I divided a carriage with some others
Snow descended as if it were days
The morning stopped and there was a strong wind
Black cotton soil where snow had puffed up
The rooftops were completely white
ignited by a pale moon
as though they were covered with money
The icicles seemed to be deliberately hung
like the various lengths of nights
luminous and assembled
               Blind men outside the carriage, the moonlight well inside
               Eight layers of plum and clearly red
               A coat of sunk violet
               In the openings of his casings one could see
               pink and yellows scarlet within him
               He had demolished the white dazzlingly
He recited the words, “cold drilling, it drew aside as ice.”
The Empress ensured that the buddha should have a name
The snow part was air-pushed
The huts of the poor were roofed by slats of the moon
               His external the blind
               Covered in eight layers of magenta-free red
               The material stood grape colored
               with a strongly described Design
Time became cold and perforated resulting in snow
The Empress drew a salary
assessed the fact that buddha would need to name us
The snow descended, hours stopped
The black cotton soil
The poor besides were burned
The moon was sick as if covered with money
The icicles seemed to hang with incredibly good manners
               A sinkful of moonlight
               One could be Mrs. and A simultaneous
               in eight layers of fuschia, red-free and red plum
               Over this he transported a coat of viola sunk
               that he has polished with one luminous streak
               Legacies of the material: firm, grape, colorful
               One could see you indent it
               The scarlet dresses like evenings under yellow
The woman slid into the back of the car in order to prevent
     the luminous moon
I divided the stars between the others
The moon on a stick burned
The Empress arranged that we nominate the buddhas
for a private game, a tryst
I shared a covered cart with falling snow
One could see a patch of black land
where the snow was casting absentee
The rooftops were completely white despite the poor
illuminated uniformly by the moon
thatched in silver
Icicles deliberate in different lengths
               She carried a coat of descended violet
               A luminous gloss
               A strongly described design
               In the openings of his residences
               one could see the notchings
               and the scarlet within him
               The evening gowns of magenta-ed lower parts
“The whole night likes to spend you.”
A divided carriage covered in delicious movement
Snow came to the bottom of our days
One could see a piece of the black cotton soil
where the snow had missed the frame
The pale moon wore a luminous uniform
moved across the sky like completion covered in money
Icicles hung in different duration as if they were days
               At the openings of his domiciles
               one could see notch and scarlet
               He stood in such a way, one of his legs inward
The cold in order to perforate the hours
The entire night to spend leisurely if there would be similar ones
“We will suffer a surplus of destination soon.”
               The snow arrived instead of days
               exquisite movement
               the hours gusting
               the roofs were completely white with women
               their icicles deliberate and hung
I could see one courtesan
covered in eight layers of magenta, red, plum
and other white dresses of the night
On this she laid a covering of violet descending
a luminous gloss
One could carve scarlet into domiciles
Dazzle the white demolished
In the end, we subvert moonlight
by sliding into the backseat of a car
On some occasions we recite the words
“the cold ends to perforate the hour”
An excess of destination soon
               A covering of coming down in viola
               The night’s dresses cut free
               The night ended in a familiar courtesan
from Kyotologic (Shearsman Books, 2008).
Order Kyotologic.
Anne is interviewed at Galatea Resurrects, Open Letters Monthly
and Five & Six Photo/Text.