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Mutsuo Takahashi (born December 15, 1937)

In his explicitly gay work, internationally recognized poet and playwright Mutsuo Takahashi celebrates homosexual desire.

Takahashi was born in Japan on December 15, 1937, and educated at Fukuoka University of Education. He has published several volumes of poetry, including You Dirty Ones, Do Dirtier Things (1966), Poems of A Penisist (1975), The Structure of The Kingdom (1982), A Bunch of Keys (1984), Practice/Drinking Eating (1988), The Garden of Rabbits (1988), and Sleeping Sinning Falling (1992).

Few poets bring as much skill and passion to their poems, especially those that consider homosexual desire, as does Takahashi. He has received many prestigious awards for his work, including the Reketei Prize, the Yomiuri Prize, and the Takami Jun Prize.

His work in drama has also earned acclaim. He won the Yamamoto Kenkichi Prize in 1987 for his stage script called Princess Medea. Other works in drama include an adaptation of W. B. Yeats's play At The Hawk's Well and a noh play inspired by Georges Bataille's Le Procès de Gil de Rais.

Even in his earliest work, Takahashi writes with vitality and precision about homosexual desire. Although Japan does not outlaw homosexual relations, the homosexual there remains an outcast because often he does not engage in the rituals and practices of Japanese family life.

The "okama" ("queen") is laughed at and ostracized. The more he is ostracized, the easier it is to keep the laughter going--at the okama's expense. Takahashi's poems give dignity to the okama, celebrating both his sexual desires and his outcast status.

Moreover, most of Takahashi's explicitly gay work celebrates desire, finding joy in the male body much as Walt Whitman's poems do. The poems eagerly name body parts as they probe desire and longing.

The speaker of Takahashi's masterful poem "Ode" celebrates his erotic and promiscuous life much as a priest celebrates the Eucharist. This 1,000-line poem begins with a parody of the Mass: "In the name of / Man, member, / and the holy fluid, / AMEN." As the speaker seeks out sex in the places most frowned on by his society, he is reborn, saved by each new encounter. The glory hole, for example, takes on spiritual significance. Only what is "made flesh" satisfies.

Poems of A Penisist is one of the most important collections of poetry on homosexual desire and sex written in this century. The personae in these poems do not compromise--they see the world as outsiders ("a faggot that fingers point at") but being outsiders brings them joy and meaning. As the majority society mocks and condemns them, their joy in their identity as gay men, as individuals who enjoy pleasure with other men, gives them strength.

In this collection, the speakers consider both their present and their past, sometimes by exploring family memories, such as the uncle who died at age twenty-two and will be forever remembered by one speaker as "this young god." The implication is that even as a very young boy, the speaker was preparing for his future erotic life--both in the flesh and on the page.

Citation Information
Author: Pobo, Kenneth
Entry Title: Takahashi, Mutsuo
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated March 24, 2011
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/takahashi_m.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date December 15, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Poems of a Penisist by Mutsuo Takahashi
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (December 17, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 081667972X
ISBN-13: 978-0816679720
Amazon: Poems of a Penisist

“In the name of / Man, member, / and the holy fluid, / Amen,” begins Mutsuo Takahashi’s epic one-thousand-line erotic fantasy poem, “Ode,” the centerpiece of his groundbreaking collection of queer poetry, Poems of a Penisist. Takahashi’s work, reminiscent of Walt Whitman’s, is a celebration of the male body, treating homosexual desire as something sacred. Stunningly beautiful and passionate, Poems of a Penisist is one of the most important compilations of homoerotic poetry written in the twentieth century.

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Tags: author: mutsuo takahashi, gay classics, literary heritage, persistent voices

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