Rooting around on Pratt’s Moodle today, I found a list of research resources including http://scholar.google.com — which, oddly, I had had no idea about. I typed in “butoh” and found a page on Hijikata Tatsumi, who would be one of my heroes if I had heroes, and was particularly taken by these two paragraphs by Kurihara Nanako:
Words and Body
Despite being a man of the body, words were essential to Hijikata. He was a voracious reader, and he wrote and spoke about his butoh on many occasions. He was especially fond of verbal battles with artists, poets, and writers, which he initiated during drinking bouts and which he considered a necessary process for his creations. In these drinking debates, so to speak, he took words, that is, ideas from his interlocutors and threw riddles back at them. Numerous banquets and drinking sessions were held at bars, friends’ houses, and the Asusbesuto kan (Asbestos Hall), 3 which was both Hijikata’s home and studio. Hijikata trained his dancers and choreographed works using words. Ultimately his dance was notated by words called butoh-fu (butoh notation). A tremendous number of words surround his dance.
But Hijikata’s words are not easy. Often his writings are strange, equivocal, and incomprehensible even for Japanese or for people close to Hijikata. His sentences are sometimes incorrect according to Japanese grammar. He freely coined his own terms, such as ma-gusare (rotting space) and nadare-ame (dribbling candy). His writings often are like surrealistic poems. At the Tram symposium, Nishitani Osamu, a scholar of French literature who used to hang out at Hijikata’s studio, pointed out, “Hijikata’s writing is neither prose nor poetry–something different–and his Japanese is twisted” (1998). Uno Kuniichi, a scholar and an acquaintance of Hijikata who wrote Aruto: Shiko to shintai (Artaud, Thought, and Body, 1997), responded, “[Hijikata] created something [End Page 14] persuasive by disconnecting the joints of sentences” (1998). Hijikata’s language implies meanings and feelings that logical language cannot convey.
It occurs to me that I actually own a copy of the issue of The Drama Review in which this appeared! I tracked it down years ago and it is one of my most treasured volumes. I suppose I’m “meant” to keep coming back and back and back to it. It seems appropo of the recent panel on Language Poetry and “the” Body. (That definite article is always a little bug in my ear.) BTW, Tim has written a wonderfully detailed and lucid summary of that panel (how does he do that?).