Interview with Shamir Kali Griffin, Spectacular Saturday Zoom Open Mic, July 16th, 2022

By: Carla Joy Martin

We had a lively session sharing poetry at July’s Spectacular Saturday Zoom Open Mic, July 16th, 2022.  Participants were Gary Evans, Shelley Evans, Irene Sinopole, Virginia Liascos, Sandra Hughes, Chris Nielsen, Carla Joy Martin, Suzanne Weller, Ruth Handy and Portia Choi.

Our featured poet, Shamir Kali Griffen, read several of his beautiful, thought-provoking poems.  Shamir’s use of Japanese in his poems intrigued us.  He has agreed to share the following two poems that contain lines in this language.  Find out more about how Shamir became interested in learning Japanese in our interview at the end.

I reach out to the future you once existed in,
Centimeters before contact it shatters as if,
To remind me that people become artifacts,
That our bodies can become mausoleum,
Even still I won’t regret searching or reaching.

An emotionless ceasefire in a war against sloth,
Trudging forth through stale haste and excitement,
A soldier who has lost every war is still beautiful,
Decorated in the memories of a future deferred,
Still chasing the dream that is to “truly live” once.

For an instant the eternity woven by a promise,
Skates across frozen moments of intimacy,
Cradled on the edge of all that is born to die,
In this instance I reach for you unwavering,
Even if regret is the final outcome I’ll cherish it.

Intertwined fate and the warm kiss of saké,
Balance the pain and strength it takes to move,
Even if the future that held you in it lost its grip,
Then I will hold you dearly in these arms,
Cuddling your light that I’ve yearned to understand.

Q.  Not many of us are able to include passages using foreign languages in our poems.  It can certainly add intrigue and richness.  What made you interested in learning Japanese?

A.  I started learning basic Japanese from my neighbors who would babysit my nephew and me.  Then the show Pokemon came out and it made me more interested.  I began listening to my first Japanese song that actually inspired me to write poetry called “Unstolen Jewel” by the Radical Dreamers for a game called Chrono Cross.  I was 11 when I heard it and felt deeply moved without knowing the lyrics.  It made me cry even though I didn’t understand the language.  I then began listening to Japanese music, watching shows, and I’ve gone through 2 self-taught books.  I am taking a formal advance course this semester at Sakura Gakuen in Sacraments, CA.