Poets Salon: Masked Beauty

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Woman with a hat and a mask hiding behind flowers

Kathabela Wilson (Photo – Rick Wilson)



Hosted by Kath Abela Wilson

red lipstick
under my cloth mask
on our short walk
I lift a corner to kiss
the orange daylily

~ Kath Abela

Moonbathing #22, June, 2020

A mask of a woman

Mask in the Noh tradition by Japanese artist Bidou Yamaguchi in his series “Portraits”. This of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

Meher McArthur

Since we are talking a lot about masks right now – and how important it is to be wearing them (!!!), it seems like time to spotlight the work of Bidou Yamaguchi, a Japanese artist who takes mask-making to a dizzyingly high level. After finishing art school in Tokyo, Yamaguchi decided to train as a Noh mask carver, learning to make the various character masks – the Old Man (Okina), the Young Woman (Ko-omote) Demonic Woman (Hannya) – worn in Noh theater, a dance-drama form that dates back to the 14th century. For over ten years, Yamaguchi studied refined traditional methods of carving, coloring and inlay with masters, and in 1998 was granted the status of purveyor of masks to the Hōshō School of Noh, establishing him as a reputable Noh mask maker and restorer of old masks. However, he soon found the conventions of traditional Noh mask carving too constraining, and from 2003, he began applying the techniques, form, transformative spirit, and mysteriousness of Noh masks to iconic European female portraits. His series of masks called “Portraits,” including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, the Girl with the Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and Jeanne by Amedeo Modigliani, render these well known faces from Western painting into three-dimensional “masks.” His mask of the Mona Lisa, made in 2007 – almost exactly 500 years after the original painting, – is carved out of Japanese cypress wood and coated with Japanese pigments and lacquer. It is so faithful to the original painting that it even features the crackles of the original oil painting. I was lucky to be able to see these masks when they were exhibited a few years back at Cal State Long Beach. As with Noh masks, the expressions of these masks change with the light and angle. It was extraordinary. Then, just as now – in a different way – I understood what a beautiful and powerful thing a mask can be.


Drawing of a mask with solid color background

Noh Mask. Drawing by Hazel Hall

Hazel Hall

Masked Shadows

a narrow bridge
from the nether world
slow-moving feet
of passing phantoms
masking their secrets

an old pine
painted back of stage
holds the pain
of life and death
in timeless words

from hi-rise windows
with covered faces scan
scattered folk below

autumn winds
sweep coloured leaves
by my door
masked shadows glide
back to the Noh Stage

a nokan wails
past and future merge
koans unfold
blossoms disappear
into a Covid universe


pebbles with different shades and colors

Gift of a sea blue mask (Photo – Mariko Kitakubo)

Mariko Kitakubo

our lives
generation to generation
where will we go?
a small hand gives me
a sea blue facemask

My son’s family brought my grandson to my home. He is 3 years old. He said “Here you are, Grandma!”

I saw a beautiful ocean blue facemask in a sweet small hand.
Daughter-in-law felt when she found this at the shop. Oh, this is for Mother, Mariko’s color
Thank you so much my dearest young family.

I am sure that the reason why I love that color, is because our ancestors came from the ocean.

It’s wonderful and mysterious.
generation to generation we keep our lives 37 hundred million years ago.
and from now, where will we go , if are able to survive this crisis. Then I realized that this gift was given, July 11, the date of death of my mother.

do you go
in search of your mother
my lost earring
was lagoon blue


A man with a mask and holding a guitar

Vince Gotera (Photo courtesy of artist)

Vince Gotera

House of the Rising Covid
by Vince Gotera

—to be sung to the tune of
“House of the Rising Sun”

There is a dream that’s haunting me.
It’s of the world outside.
I’m trapped inside my “living” room
And now my brain is fried.

With one foot on the threshold
of my ajar front door,
I fantasize a quick escape
but fear the covid more.

And so, I guess I’ll just stay here
and Zoom with all my friends.
I’ll play guitar and sing off-key
until this quarantine ends.


Masked Beauty: Quotes and Credits

Meher McArthur is an Asian art historian who specializes in Japanese art. She is based in Los Angeles and works as Academic Curator at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She began writing her Daily Art Hugs on March 12 as a way of adding something positive, healing and beautiful to her friends’ Facebook feeds. Her special insights will be a regular feature on our Poets Salons.

Hazel Hall is an Australian poet and musicologist. Her latest collections are Step by Step, with Angie Egan (Picaro Poets 2019), Moonlight Over the Siding (Interactive Press 2019), You are Her Words, with Canadian artist Karen Bailey (HD Press 2019), and Severed Web with Australian artist Deborah Faeyrglenn (Picaro Poets 2020). Her collection of sonnets Is forthcoming.

Mariko Kitakubo loves the inspiration of her family and friends, who give her strength to make her own world. (A tanka poet/tanka reading performer.) Born in Tokyo, she lives in Mitaka-city, Tokyo. Mariko has published six books of tanka including three bilingual ones, “On This Same Star” , “Cicada Forest”and “INDIGO”, Shabda Press, Pasadena. She has also produced a CD of her tanka titled “Messages.” Mariko is an experienced performer who has presented her poetry internationally and most recently, has been featured in Zoom poetry events in the US and Europe.

Vince Gotera is a Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review (2000-2016). He was also Editor of Star*Line, the print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2017-2020). Recent poems appeared in the journals Abyss & Apex, Altered Reality Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Dreams & Nightmares, Ekphrastic Review, Philippines Graphic (Philippines), Rosebud, Stone Canoe, and the anthologies Multiverse (UK) and Hay(na)ku 15. Gotera blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.


Tell us, by midnight Sunday, Pacific time, your unusual interesting positive gifts, projects, resolves, hopes and realizations you have come upon. Tell us about the new paths you have taken, those that might endure in your life, that may not have happened had we not been in this situation. We all know good things can come from difficulty. Unexpected doors open and we sometimes find treasure.

Send short poems, haiku, senryu, tanka, cherita haibun, tanka prose, short prose poems, etc., or your own unique approach, to Kath Abela by Facebook message or click here to email her directly. We can feature your work again after five months. Multiple Submissions can be saved to appear later:

  1. Send a short bio, comments on the theme.
  2. Send photos or artwork by you, if possible.
  3. No attachments except photos.
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Kath Abela Wilson
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One comment to “Poets Salon: Masked Beauty”
  1. Thank you for creating and publishing this artistic poetic venture during our masked times.
    With gratitude to each of the poets and artists.

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