"Pilgrimage to a Gingko Tree" by Edward Dougherty


Poet Edward Dougherty likes to mention that he has worked in a pizza shop and prepared VCR instructions for The Cable Guide. Certainly anything can feed and direct a poet in his work. He was also poetry editor of the Mid-American Review. But Dougherty’s deepest experience was the two and a half years that he and his wife lived in Hiroshima, Japan as directors of the World Friendship Center. He was on hand for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II, and came to know survivors, the hibakusha. He also gained an appreciation of Japanese life and culture that is revealed in all his writing.

To welcome the wind,
singing and lonely, the pine trees
make themselves
a suitable home, the way
a man will write his name
in the shape of a forest.
To welcome the ink, paper
will listen so carefully
the guest
remembers a season
in a distant homeland
then begins to speak
words so true, so essential
someone must write them.
— from Pilgrimage to a Ginko Tree

There are three new books of poetry by Edward Dougherty, each bearing his response to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the chaos of conflict. “Pilgrimage to a Ginko Tree” was originally published after Hiroshima’s 1995 Festival of Hope. “Part Darkness Part Breath” is also a meditation on violence as well as a book of protest and hope. “The Luminous House” is a chapbook inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee.

Mr. Dougherty is on the English faculty of Corning Community College and is co-author of the workbook “Exercises for Poets: The Double Bloom”. In 2007, he received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activity.

Edward Dougherty joins Bill Jaker to read his recent poems and tell about his earlier experiences.

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