Spring and Ashura Part I: Mental Sketches and "Blue"

Blue in Spring and Ashura
Let's take a look at some of the poems in Spring and Ashura Part I to find out how these observations and records of mental phenomena that Kenji calls his "mental sketches" differ from "observations" and "records" in the usual sense of those words.
The bitterness of anger and its blueness/Down underneath the light of the April atmosphere/I come and go, spitting and grinding my teeth/I am an ashura [omission] At the depths of the dazzling sea of atmosphere/(sadness is dark blue)
In the poem Spring and Ashura Kenji expresses disgust at his mental state and uses the term ashura to depict himself in this state of vexation. He compares himself to an ashura that grovels about "Down underneath the light of the April atmosphere," at the bottom of the great altitude of the sky's atmospheric layers. He also describes his vexation as "The bitterness of anger and its blueness," and after the line "At the depths of the dazzling sea of atmosphere," the color blue makes another appearance, "sadness is dark blue."
It seems that Kenji actually felt himself surrounded by the color blue as he was walking through the forest one April day in an irritated mood. The air, especially, appeared a blue tint so that he felt himself "At the depths of...the sea of atmosphere."

Blue is also a theme of Kenji's "observations of mental phenomena" in the poems Observer of Scenery and Impression.

Blue in Observer of Scenery and Impression
That wood/served up too much verdigris/If it's natural, it can't be helped/And the Purkinje Phenomenon always comes into it a little/But how about/Having the sky send down some more orange rays? (From Observer of Scenery)

"The blueness of Larix/Comes both from the freshness of the tree and the disposition of one's nerves/Just then an indigo-blue gentleman in the observation car/Tightened the X-shaped clasp of his belt/And stood transparently straight/Fixing the eyes of his seemingly ill countenance/On a mountain of light" (Impression)

Material in quotation marks is KENJI MIYAZAWA POEMS
translated by Roger Pulvers, published by Chikuma Shobo.
Slightly adapted.

Observer of Scenery describes an artist's observation of the colors composing a scene; he is dubious about the verdigris of the woods, which he feels is too strong: "If its natural, it can't be helped," expresses his skepticism at the relationship between nature's data and "mental phenomena." In Impression, though, Kenji emphatically asserts "The blueness of Larix/Comes both from the freshness of the tree and the disposition of one's nerves." Our perception of blue is not due solely to the data we receive from nature, but also to "the disposition of one's nerves." Kenji means that abnormal states of mind can distort the framework by which we decipher the data we receive through our senses.

If we are attentive to Kenji's state of consciousness when he observes and records the color "blue" in Spring and Ashura Part I, we see that his "mental sketches" of "observations and records of mental phenomena" involve inquiries into the relationship between "mental phenomena" and "data received externally," thus clearly different from the customary usages of "observation" and "record."

"I" portrayed within the scenery Another point that Observer of Scenery and Impression share in common is that they depict the observer within the landscape being observed. The observer of scenery and the gentleman fastening his belt in Impression are Kenji himself; portraying himself as a character within the poem allows him to view himself from an external vantage point. In Spring and Ashura, he calls himself an ashura; the first person "I" and "ashura" other are superimposed. Kenji/Ashura is drawn within a landscape of expansive scale "Down underneath the light of the April atmosphere." In this way, Kenji observes and records scenery as a "mental phenomenon," and places the "observer" or "I" within the scene in many of the sketches in Spring and Ashura Part I. The following poem, Clouds and Alder Trees, is representative of this type of composition,
Just barely, between the undulations of the hills and the clouds/I can make out the bewitching heavens/Full of dust-motes of seductive light/Within, a row of brilliant, dazzling cumulus clouds/Lined up far off in the distance with my heart/Under this funeral march of stratus/A limpid space even birds don't cross/I go south looking for good layers of limestone/All alone/Carrying a hammer/Entertaining one after the other cold, seductive illusion (From Clouds and Alder Trees)
As we see from these examples, the mental sketches in Spring and Ashura Part I exhibit various styles that are closely connected with the treatment of time as Kenji mentally experiences it. Compositions that portray the "observer" or "I" within a large-scale landscape do not simply link observations and records of "mental phenomena" at certain points in time; Kenji adds the perspective of viewing from a distance the "self" experiencing the mental phenomena in order to produce a spatial and temporal frame of reference.
While it is uncertain what Kenji's external perspective derives from, it is an extremely effective device for expressing his mental sketches through the medium of poetry.
From Spring and Ashura in The Complete Works of Miyazawa Kenji Vol.1,
Chikuma Bunko.

->Reciprocal Permeation of "I" and "All Else"

The World of Kenji's Works
The World of Kenji Miyazawa