During this global crisis, many people are drawing strength from the words of their favorite artistic figures. On Wednesday, Yayoi Kusama, one of the world’s most popular and influential living artists, published a poem that elucidates her thoughts on the pandemic, and the work speaks deeply to the themes of interconnectivity and planetary unity that the artist often addresses in her installations and drawings. Kusama is perhaps best known for her polka-dot-covered sculptural creations and for her “infinity room” installations, but throughout her career as an artist, she’s also consistently released poetry and other writings that speak to her range as a creative person.
Her latest poetic offering is fairly straightforward: “Though it glistens just out of reach, I continue to pray for hope to shine through / Its glimmer lighting our way,” Kusama’s poem begins. “This long awaited great cosmic glow / Now that we find ourselves on the dark side of the world / The gods will be there to strengthen the hope we have spread throughout the universe.” Later on, Kusama also directly addresses the virus and essentially banishes it. “To COVID-19 that stands in our way / I say Disappear from this earth,” Kusama writes. “We shall fight / We shall fight this terrible monster.”
Like many other artists, Kusama is also experiencing something of a career slowdown due to the coronavirus: The exhibition “KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature” that was set to take place this year at the New York Botanical Garden was rescheduled for spring–fall 2021, and the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Tokyo has been closed at least through May 6. But since you can’t check out her work in person, you have the opportunity to trawl through her range of literary offerings that she’s produced in addition to the coronavirus poem, which includes an autobiographical poetic book entitled Manhattan Suicide Addict that Kusama wrote in the ’70s while catastrophically depressed.
“Swallow antidepressants and it will be gone,” Kusama wrote in Suicide Addict. “Tear down the gate of hallucination. Amidst the agony of flowers, the present never ends. At the stairs to heaven, my heart expires with tenderness. Calling from the sky, doubtless, transparent in its shade of blue.”