• kris moon and Kathabela Wilson

      kris moon and Kathabela Wilson

      An interview with kris moon, a passionate, unique artist and poet.

      By Kathabela Wilson

      She’s lived and worked in Japan for over forty years, though she grew up in the US and Canada. kris transmits her love of “renku”, a form of collaborative Japanese verse all over the world and she is especially dear to the poets of Pasadena. In 2013 and 2015 she visited and lead renku sessions here with exciting results.

      A telescope on the poet

      Everyone is amazed when I introduce you. You come from Japan, have lived there for all this time, and yet you are not Japanese, how did this happen?

      carved with plum blossoms
      a small gift to my family
      long, long ago
      a treasure i keep together
      with my my painting kit

      My attraction to Japan started when in 1951, when I was five years old, and my dad brought home a guest from Japan who gave us a carved bamboo letter opener. I still keep with my paints and ink stone. It says “one world, one family”. When my family moved to Toronto the next year I fell in love with a detailed lifelike model of a traditional Japanese country house and garden in a museum there. I spent many days pretending I lived there.

      I went to art school and university in Boston, where I not only fell in love with the Japanese art in the museums, a Japanese artist who went to teach there. I already had Japanese friends among the musicians, and met many amazing artists who visited. It seems prophetic that in my first year in Boston i was given a lovely book with Hiroshige prints and translations of tanka and haiku. In 1972 I had saved up enough money to go to Japan for a year, and as luck would have it, it cost the same to go by ship as to fly. I was given a set of R. H. Blythe’s haiku translations an commentaries by my lover. We broke up as a couple while I was there but remained friends, but that is another story. My love of Japan, its poet artists, only continued to grow. How quickly one year has turned into more than 40.

      A microscope on the poet

      A haiga by kris moon

      A haiga by kris moon

      I know that your passion for collaboration poetry is unique and essential to your life, as a loving human being in the world. Can you tell us anything about how this began to be important and pleasurable?

      three girls giggle
      & exchange diaries mixed
      with French, Latin & English

      My first encounter with collaborative writing came in high school with two of my best friends. We wanted to keep our diaries in French, but decided to have a rule that we would not use dictionaries. Instead we would write as much as we could in French, and since we all studied Latin, if we did not know the French word, but knew the Latin word we would use that,and as a last resort use English. They were so hilarious that we exchanged them to share what we wrote, and ended up by commenting in each other’s diaries. I do remember the gales of laughter when we would read our entries out loud to one another. Years later in Japan, I found out it is a common practice here for school girls to write “koukan nikki” or exchange diaries. My daughter and her best friend put their diaries in each other’s shoe boxes at school!

      Projection on the poet

      kris moon

      kris moon

      How does your love for Japan and love of collaboration blend and show itself in your everyday life now?

      I am a teacher of English in Japan, and meet with hundreds of students a week. I love teaching and sharing and seeing excitement and creativity bloom. My classroom activities of everyday English include art and poems.

      Excitement, cheerfulness and surprising sharing are also the essence of renku sessions, which I lead all over the world. They have the same humor, joy and exploration as my early diary sharing! My sessions in Pasadena over the last four years have been especially delightful and satisfying. I have made so many new friends.

      Pulse of the poet

      Kris says "green tea ice cream is my favorite in the hot, humid summers in Japan.For desert at a hotspring at the end of a multi course meal...we were served green tea ice cream decorated with a tiny red bloom."

      Kris says “green tea ice cream is my favorite in the hot, humid summers in Japan.For desert at a hotspring at the end of a multi course meal…we were served green tea ice cream decorated with a tiny red bloom.”

      What is renku, and how does it satisfy your collaborative passion?

      Renku is a constantly flowing collaborative poem by many poets, which never repeats itself. It includes as many aspects as possible of a human life span. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs must not be repeated. It alternates three and two line verses, and the seasons flow through it. Renku in Japan is almost always led by a sabaki, or renku leader (that is what I have become) who knows the complicated ins & outs so that the rest of the participants can relax & enjoy the party.

      A compass of the poet

      kris moon at the Caltech Poetry reading.

      kris moon at the Caltech Poetry reading.

      You are also a wonderful artist, creating work in all media. You’ve had art shows in Japan of your lovely watercolors and assemblages, and you are especially known for your haiga art, your computer combinations of poems and artwork, how did your artistic life begin?

      Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an artist. What were some of the seeds? One of my father’s prized possessions was a watercolor of a small river where he and his friends used to play when he was growing up. It always had a place of honor in our living room above the wooden cabinet holding our television, record player and record collection. Every time we moved( and that was often) that combination was the first to be unpacked and set up in our new home.The painting was delicate in muted colors, obviously painted with love as well as dexterity. My father also had favorite prints which were framed and hung around the house, a bridge with boats by Van Gogh, an etching by Rembrandt, and a painting of a classic garden with with lilacs reflected in a lake. When i was eight or nine my parents commissioned an artist living in Toronto to paint a portrait of my mother, and another of we three children. Now I live by a small river in Kanagawa. I have my small art studio overlooking that flowing stream. I collect small stones and since the terrible tsunami in Japan I have created “jizo stones” painted portraits of people representing the lost, and our connection with each other. I give them as gifts and as gifts to friends who will give them to others as symbols of all we share. Life itself is a gift and a collaboration.

      From a renku session in Pasadena

      the shakuhachi
      moans on Hiroshima Day…
      still making cranes                        janis

      wings droop ever silently
      in the noonday sun                       elva

      a dream of flying
      holding hands
      in desert sand                               kathabela

      falling anywhere but down
      my gut knows better                     jonathan

      moon shadows
      hidden in the maze
      of a song                                       kris

      The poets are Janis Lukstein, Elva Lauter, Kathabela Wilson, Jonathan Vos Post, and kris moon.


      ​A fine introduction to Kris’ artwork here.  Also, check her Renku biography here and here.

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        • Kathabela Wilson

          Kathabela Wilson is a local poet/writer/artist and musician. Her Poets Salon has become an international respected must read in the poetry world. She's the creator and host of the Pasadena-based group, “Poets on Site.”

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

        • Latest posts by Kathabela Wilson

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      1. susandiri says:

        so wonderful to read your history, Kris, your light touch with the years, & your history with Japan, begun long before you went!! love to you!!

      2. L says:

        Some may or may not believe but I can’t help but think Kris was looking for her old country and it found her once again. One of the richest and interviews thus far …. but I love them all. Well done Kris and Kathabela for this collaborative and intimate poem. ~Lois

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