This poem from circa 2002 contains the same linguistic text— that is, the same sequence of words— as the 2003 “Nippon” but it is a very different work.
“Orient” is set to the tune of “B. Quick” by Sonny Rollins, which makes it last slightly over 9:13. This song is a fast-paced bebop that sets an urgent, desperate, even frantic tone – making your heart race and eyes tear as you try to keep up with an aggressive reading pace. Stick with it and you’ll end up exhausted and bewildered as your brain gets taken through what reads like a stream-of-consciousness narrative about cheerful men who go to a bar and interact with desperately bored women whose job it is to make them feel at ease.
“Nippon” plays to the slower (16:42), softer, sultrier notes of Thelonious Monk’s “Japanese Folk Song (Kōjō no Tsuki)” which does wonders to transport us into a smoky, seedy bar in Japan where the same sexual politics take place as in “Orient.” Having those extra 7 minutes and 29 seconds to pace the same words in the same order makes a world of difference, too, as the spaces between the words increases in places, the clustering of words and phrases varies, and the audience has time to take it all in and sort out the details.
Another major difference is that while “Orient” is much like “The Struggle Continues” in having a black text on a white background, “Nippon” uses red and white and splits the screen space, displaying text in English and Japanese simultaneously. I recommend Jessica Pressman’s 2007 essay for a detailed reading of “Nippon” and its strategies.
So even though both pieces contain the same linguistic text, they are profoundly different works, each with a distinct impact on the audience and on the stories they tell.