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INOCHI — The Complete Edition

  • • About 『命 INOCHI

  • • The Cover Story

Tab 1
Life itself was the inspiration for this compilation of previously unpublished poems that I self-published in the summer of 1999 as my first book. Inochi, the Japanese word for “life”, was a most precious thing never to be taken for granted — so I believed after witnessing firsthand the tragic loss of life and devastation wrought by the Hanshin earthquake in western Japan, where I was living in 1995 with my new and growing family. The experience of us living through the hell of that natural disaster deeply affected me.

The complete
INOCHI edition is being published here on the web for the first time since then. It consists of a variety of poems written over the course of several years, unified under the simple theme of Life. INOCHI was meant to tell the universal story of life from birth to death, and the common threads that bind us all, whoever and wherever in the world we may be.

I made up my mind from the start that this book was not going to be a profit-making venture — that it was going to be published from the heart and for healing, not for monetary gain. And I’ve stayed true to that promise: All proceeds from the sale of this book over the years were donated to organizations that uplift humanity and protect nature in some way. Not a single yen has been kept by me.

As a debut work of poetry,
INOCHI was also a personal affirmation of sorts — my own conscious choosing of life over death, living over dying, surviving over surrendering. The book was, and still is, a soul-embrace of The Great Tree of Life and a long-overdue goodbye to The Dead Zone, a place I occupied both physically and mentally for the first 20 years or so of my existence.

All in all, the experience of writing and putting together
INOCHI for public sharing was, to me, the very essence of rebirth and renewal that Life offers to each one of us.
Tab 2
The front cover of INOCHI often elicited as strong an impression from people seeing it for the first time as did the book’s actual contents. And that is exactly the reaction I was going for when I designed the front cover late one night on my Mac computer in Minoo, Osaka, where we had moved to after the earthquake.

The cover of
INOCHI is simple yet complex, and full of symbolism. The four colors on the cover — black, red, yellow, white — symbolize the four sacred colors, four sacred directions and four races of people in traditional Native American spirituality. The yellow background also symbolizes hope, optimism, warmth and the rising sun of a new day; it represents being here in Asia as well. The thick, black writing at the very bottom symbolizes to me the root or foundation of everything: in other words, Africa.

The circle in the center symbolizes the sacred circle of life found throughout the world’s cultures, and the deep-red
inochi character within it represents the blood that is shared by all human beings. And on a lighter note, the red circle and character within it also stand for the personal seals (hanko or inkan) that are widely used in Japan to sign official documents in place of a signature. And so, Life itself became my personal seal. For some years afterward, I even had this very same red circular character printed up on my business cards in Japan as well.

I had originally wanted the cover of my first published book to be dynamic and bold, simple yet substantive, and at first glance, to both catch and repel the reader’s eye. And so it came to be with this design.

Click on the big book-cover image above to read the complete version of
INOCHI in a separate window. Enjoy…

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MOTOMENAI • The Series

Japanese poems and nature-scene watercolor paintings by Shozo Kajima.
English translations by Brian Covert. All images © English Journal 2010-2011.

> About “Motomenai”
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WINTER 2010-11
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Beginnings . . .

    About "Beginnings . . ."
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    My first published poems were part of a chapbook titled To Write Upon the Sand: An Anthology of Verse by South Bay Poets. It was printed by the company that also published the Lomita Headlight, a local weekly newspaper for which I was working as a reporter in the early 1980s.

    It was a natural progression for me as a writer. My love for the poetic word was fostered at a young age by my maternal grandmother, who had encouraged me to write and express myself on paper in words that rhymed. The seeds of that early inspiration — of both reading and writing poetry — would take root and last me a lifetime.

    This book was the first door to open for me as a published poet, and other doors would open later. These three simple poems marked the very beginnings . . . of a journey of becoming, of dreams pursued, of a life devoted to the written word in all its manifestations.


    (All poems ©1982 Brian Covert)
    chevron_right When Heroes Fall
    Dedicated to the memory of John Lennon

    Why is it we paint them in a corner
    With their backs against the wall,
    But we’re always the first to shed a tear
    For heroes, when they fall.

    They live their lives as humans
    Though we may think that’s odd,
    Then they’re gone and soon we seem to
    Mold them into gods

    Their professions are their legacies,
    As a way of reaching out
    To people who seem worlds away,
    Far beyond a shout

    When heroes fall, we pick up pieces
    Of what they’ve left behind:
    Their many thoughts on what they’ve taught
    And their love for humankind

    We love them while they’re with us
    (Not long enough it seems)
    And when they’re gone, we can only hope
    That they’re following their dreams.
    chevron_right California Sunset

    When you’re way out in the Valley
    Or high atop the hills,
    The sun at dusk has a funny way
    Of making time stand still

    Standing on the golden beaches
    Amidst cool ocean winds
    Where the sun, the sky, and the sea all meet
    Is where paradise begins

    Or high atop a mountain range
    When the sun sheds its last light
    Soon appear a million stars
    That have been waiting for a night.

    It’s something you can count on
    Just like an old friend:
    Once you’ve seen it, you’ll be back
    To watch a California sunset again.
    chevron_right Still Friends
    STILL FRIENDS (After All)

    We’ve been in love all these years now
    Yet it seems to be growing stronger
    Nobody’s actually said, “Well, here’s how…”
    We’ve just kept love going longer

    And we haven’t had much time to think of
    Relaxing, much less straying
    Of all those toasts we had to drink of,
    “To love and us” we’ve kept saying

    And our children have grown up and gone
    To love and raise their own:
    Awakenings of a brand-new dawn,
    Much like we have known

    But those rough times, they weren’t much fun
    Were they? Life seemed such a strain
    Still somehow you and I saw the sun
    While others felt it rain

    Our many friends have drifted away
    Though they’re close enough to call
    You and I are alone, but that’s OK
    ’Cause we’re still friends after all

    Love, my life with you has been a ball,
    And we’re still friends…after all.