Originally published by Shameless Hussy, a struggling feminist press, Mitsuye Yamada’s Camp Notes, and Other Poems is a personal volume involving family participation. The cover illustration, by the author’s older daughter, Jeni Yamada, is a line drawing of a female figure in three stages: a shy little girl, an older girl walking forward, and a striding woman carrying either a briefcase or suitcase. The ambiguity of the last figure can refer to the camp experience, where internees were able to bring only what they could carry, or to the author’s professional life as writer, teacher, and activist. The author’s husband contributed the book’s calligraphy, and the volume is dedicated to Yamada’s parents, husband, two daughters, and two sons. The actual “Camp Notes” poems center the volume and are bracketed by an opening section on the author’s parents and a closing series of poems looking to the present and future.
The seven poems in the section “My Issei Parents, Twice Pioneers, Now I Hear Them” were written after the central “camp notes” set, and they look back to parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. The section opens with a folk saying: “What your Mother tells you now/ in time/ you will come to know.” The text appears first in brush-stroke ideograms, then in transliterated Japanese, and finally in the author’s translation. Thetheme permeates the author’s work, which engages with the ways that...
(The entire section is 1667 words.)
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