The Ocean Inside Kenji Takezo

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Rick Noguchi expands upon the theme collected in his book THE WAVE HE CAUGHT (1994). THE OCEAN INSIDE KENJI TAKEZO centers around teenage surfer Kenji Takezo and his attempts to become one with the ocean. The collection weaves examples of Kenji’s life and ties them together as metaphors for surfing, which is how Kenji sees the world. To Kenji, everything is inspiration to make him a better surfer. Life is his ocean to surf.

The reader first meets Kenji riding his bike as a surfer rides the waves. Wiping out at the bottom of the hill becomes another surfing lesson for Kenji. He rides his mother’s ironing board, the top of the schoolbus, anything that can help make him a better surfer. He even uses bricks to hold himself underwater and jumps from rooftops to practice crashing from tall waves.

For a brief moment at the collection’s end, Kenji achieves his goal of becoming both surfer and ocean. The ocean that Kenji carries inside himself is both the water he swallows as he wipes out on a wave and the wave he carries inside, the wave he tries to become when he rides the ocean.

A unique collection written in free verse style, Noguchi captures the heart of what might be considered an odd poetic subject and embodies it in the grand pursuit of a teenager’s dream. For a brief moment, after reading the collection, non-surfers understand what draws surfers to the ocean.