Craig Arnold: Missing in Japan

>> Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to tell this story? It's not about me, it's about Craig Arnold, a poet and professor from Wyoming who's gone missing on a small Japanese island, but the way I'm connected to it is part of the story. For me anyway.

It begins like this: A few months back, I applied for this amazing grant from the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission that sends five artists--and their families!--to Japan each year for five months to study and pursue some particular aspect of their crafts. Last year's winners were two composers, a visual artist, a fiction writer, and a poet. My idea is to follow Japanese high schoolers preparing for and competing in the Koshien Summer Baseball Tournament, with an eye to writing a novel about it.

I've been daydreaming about getting this grant since I sent in the application--which is bad, I know, since it's a very competitive grant, and chances are I won't get it--and I've gotten worse and worse about imagining me and the family there as the notification deadline looms.

So I've understandibly had Japan on the brain a lot lately, more than usual, and when I read a reTweet from Laurel Snyder yesterday about a poet who'd gone missing in Japan, I clicked through with interest. "Perhaps I shouldn't be romanticizing getting this grant so much," I thought as the page loaded--and then I was shocked to see a familiar face--the face of Craig Arnold, above.

I don't know Craig Arnold in real life, but when I was applying for the grant, I necessarily looked up previous winners and their bios, trying to get a handle on what the committee might be looking for. Craig was the poet who won one of last year's grants--which meant that he'd be spending time in Japan this year--and I remembered his proposal because it was intriguing. Craig's been traveling to volcanic areas all over the world and writing poetry about the shared experience of these far-flung regions, and his grant was to visit Japanese volcanoes for inspiration.

Craig went missing three days ago on the tiny volcanic island of Kuchino-Erabu-Shiba, which is only about 14.5 square kilometers in size, and has only 160 inhabitants. He checked in at an inn on Monday and climbed the volcano that afternoon. When he didn't come back at nightfall, the innkeeper went looking for him. When he couldn't find Craig, he called the rescue squad, and the search has been on for him ever since. Forty rescuers have been searching the island's trails by foot, and a helicopter and dogs were brought in on day two.

As of day three (Wednesday), Craig still hadn't been found, and family and friends were worried that the search might be called off. A number of people phoned his home state's senators and congresspeople, the US consolate, the media, and other parties, and as a result the Japanese authorities have agreed to extend the search past the requisite three days. Three more helicopters have been brought in too, including two US helicopters. The dense island vegetation limits their usefulness, however. The worry is that he was unable to find the path back down the mountain from the volcano's edge, and that something happened to him in the forest.

A number of blogs and pages have been set up to keep people informed about what's happening with the search, and to let us know how we can help:

The Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog
The Find Craig Arnold Facebook Group
The Find Craig Arnold Blog

I'll be checking in regularly to see if there's anything I can do to help. In the meantime, help spread the word, and keep Craig and his loved ones in your thoughts.


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