todd logo        Todd Shimoda's Writer's Blog                                           home | Twitter | Facebook
ENTRY

Review: The Game of 100 Ghosts
March 31, 2015

The Game of 100 Ghosts
Terry Watada

Imagine five or six samurai, all inebriated to some degree, sitting in a room with one hundred lighted candles. Taking turns, they tell a ghost story and extinguish one of the candles. As the room darkens during the long night, the stories become creepier as the samurai try to outdo the others. When the one-hundredth tale has ended, and the last candle extinguished, the ghosts whose stories were told would be free to haunt the story-telling samurai. Often, with the brave samurai now quivering, the last tale would go untold.

This old Japanese game (hyakumonogatari kaidankai) is at the heart of Terry Watada's collection of poems. The Toronto poet, playwright, novelist, among other accomplishments, calls up, if not one hundred, dozens of ghosts. Are they real or imagined ghosts from his life? We don't know, but the ghostly poems are a critical mass of those moments where we feel something beyond the cold, reasonable reality of life. Those moments occur when we feel the fragility of our humanity through loss, and in more than one poem, through the cruel horror of what one person can do to another.

Some of the poems speak directly of ghosts, what they are capable of, and how where they come from. When they make an appearance, not only do they speak but they cause ripples in time that reverberate through lives, and especially through emotions. To emphasize those ripples, Watada creatively uses punctuation, increased word spacing, and line breaks.
from "The Silent Mouths of Rain"

the sizzle of
the steady ??? rainstorm
sub-
??? siding into a drizzle
and sputter of
whisperings ??? of

long-ago dead
abuse:
????? ghosts speak

but the mouths of rain remain silent
Many of Watada's ghosts haunt the immigrant's experience, primarily the Japanese in Canada. From these poems, a feeling of not belonging completely in either Japan or Canada emerges, although as the timeline of the poems progresses, the old world culture subsidizes and all but disappears. The reader can feel the visceral loneliness exacerbated by the sense of not belonging, and the unrelenting evolution of self.
from "The Dinner"

his wife ??? sat
in his son's renovated kitchen
to eat by herself in the company
of turkey carcass
???? stuffing, canned cranberry
sauce and sushi

in the company of her grief
As with the samurai, do we dread the flame of that last candle being extinguished, plunging us into darkness? Or do we want to feel the full fury of the ghosts that haunt us? Watada has brilliantly brought us to this point of expectation and dread. Before we reach that last story, he warns us with what we might expect.
from "The Game Nears Its End"

it's nearing the time
just a few more stories ??? a touch
more ??? ghosts
and expect a visitation
in
total darkness and cloying fumes.

the flicker of the past
will enlighten
The Game of 100 Ghosts is highly recommended, and is best read in quiet candlelight.

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 1
click here to add a comment

Lee Witte
sounds like spooky cool, unique poetry

ARCHIVE

date (comments)

Review: Moshi, Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto
April 13, 2017 (0)

First Annual Little Tokyo Book Festival
September 1, 2016 (2)

Review: Tales of Old Tokyo
April 13, 2016 (0)

LA Times Festival of Books
April 4, 2016 (1)

Review: The Translation of Love
February 14, 2016 (1)

Review: Holy Ghosts: The Christian Century in Modern Japanese Fiction
October 7, 2015 (1)

Review: Japanese Literature - From Murasaki to Murakami
September 25, 2015 (1)

Review: The Book of Tokyo
August 28, 2015 (1)

"Why Ghosts Appear"
July 7, 2015 (2)

Review: The Game of 100 Ghosts
March 31, 2015 (1)

Editing, editing, editing
October 30, 2014 (1)

Review: Light and Dark
July 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Landscape with Traveler
June 30, 2014 (1)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
April 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Triangle
March 30, 2014 (5)

Review: The Guest Cat
February 28, 2014 (2)

2013: Year in review
December 30, 2013 (6)

Review: Jasmine
November 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Case of the Sharaku Murders
September 30, 2013 (2)

A well-realized voice
August 31, 2013 (1)

How to find a publisher
July 30, 2013 (2)

Review: Kiku's Prayer
June 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Goddess Chronicle
May 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Paprika
April 21, 2013 (3)

Review: A Straight Road With 99 Curves
March 30, 2013 (1)

Gripping writing
February 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Salvation of a Saint
January 19, 2013 (2)

2012 in review
December 30, 2012 (2)

Review: Ninja
September 30, 2012 (2)

Review: My Postwar Life
August 21, 2012 (1)

New interview with Colin Marshall
July 15, 2012 (3)

Book events
April 25, 2012 (2)

Subduction
March 14, 2012 (8)

Review: A Room Where the Star Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard
January 14, 2012 (1)

Review: Plainsong
December 20, 2011 (3)

Review: The Devil's Disciple
November 29, 2011 (2)

Haruki Murakami
October 5, 2011 (2)

Busyness and demons
September 25, 2011 (2)

Characters: The Bully
July 30, 2011 (3)

Review: Manazuru
June 28, 2011 (2)

Deadlines!
June 24, 2011 (2)

Review: Butterfly's Sisters
May 18, 2011 (1)

Review: Isle of Dreams
April 20, 2011 (2)

Cades Award for Literature press release
April 12, 2011 (2)

Japan and other news
March 29, 2011 (1)

Borders bankruptcy
February 17, 2011 (2)

2010 review
December 17, 2010 (6)

Congratulations Mario Vargas Llosa
October 7, 2010 (2)

OH! wins best book award
September 23, 2010 (2)

Review: Kissing the Mask
August 22, 2010 (1)

Jonathan Lethem: Writing at the margins
July 12, 2010 (2)

Review: Love in Translation
June 22, 2010 (3)

Jose Saramago
June 18, 2010 (0)

Marketplace of Ideas interview
June 11, 2010 (2)

Imagining Memory
May 6, 2010 (1)

Upcoming Los Angeles events
April 7, 2010 (2)

Time and energy
March 30, 2010 (2)

Review: Botchan
February 28, 2010 (2)

J.D. Salinger
January 28, 2010 (1)

2009 Reviewed
December 31, 2009 (5)

Review: The Word Book
December 12, 2009 (1)

Chaat and Chat event with OH!
November 6, 2009 (2)

Home at last
November 2, 2009 (2)

Los Angeles events
October 17, 2009 (1)

Poets and poetry
October 7, 2009 (1)

Time + place
September 24, 2009 (1)

The future of books
September 23, 2009 (1)

October book tour
September 6, 2009 (1)

Blogging at Powell's Books
August 28, 2009 (2)

The evolution of an idea
August 3, 2009 (1)

The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga: A Hermeneutical Journey
July 9, 2009 (2)

Tour debrief
July 2, 2009 (3)

Book tour events
May 18, 2009 (3)

Simply in the mood
April 24, 2009 (2)

Book tour
April 8, 2009 (6)

The Necessary Book
March 2, 2009 (2)

"Murder Makes the Magazine"
February 7, 2009 (3)

John Updike
January 27, 2009 (2)

2008 misc. (good news, bad news)
January 1, 2009 (3)

Publishing woes and query letters
December 13, 2008 (4)

Punctuation compunction
November 16, 2008 (3)

The Fountain of Youth (and other Ideas)
October 10, 2008 (2)

David Foster Wallace
September 14, 2008 (2)

Ending it all
September 12, 2008 (2)

The mystery of plotting, the plotting of mysteries
August 29, 2008 (3)

Blocking out the block
August 20, 2008 (3)

"What kind of books do you write?"
August 8, 2008 (2)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 4
July 21, 2008 (3)

Show and tell
July 14, 2008 (3)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 3
July 7, 2008 (7)

Advice for first-time writers (Barry Gifford and me)
June 30, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 2
June 18, 2008 (3)

To be or not to be
June 10, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 1
June 3, 2008 (6)

Virtual unreality
May 31, 2008 (4)

The purpose of this blog
May 21, 2008 (5)