The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Relocation,” a poem of forty-seven lines, has four major sections separated by asterisks. Within each major section are three four-line stanzas, with the exception of the first section, which has only two stanzas, and an italicized haiku that concludes the final section. The poem’s dedication reads, “for Grandfather Uyemura,” the central character in the poem. It is his several “relocations” that the poem describes. The physical removals from Japan to America, within America, and back to Japan are sometimes voluntary and sometimes coerced, and they result in either exhilaration and freedom or depression and oppression.

David Mura uses the format of the poem to deliver a sketchy biography of his grandfather, recounting the most significant events in his grandfather’s adult life. The poem also indirectly traces the emotions with which Mura’s grandfather responds to those life experiences and, even more indirectly, Mura’s own emotional reactions to those events that predate his own birth.

The first section begins with an expository stanza that makes reference to an Asian custom prevalent around the 1920’s. Asian men who had immigrated to America to seek their fortunes would send to their home countries a picture of themselves as a way of advertising for a bride of the same ethnic background. They would pay the one-way passage to America of any eligible woman who would be lured across the ocean by the picture and promise of...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Although all stanzas but the final haiku have a consistent number of lines that are roughly the same length, the poem breaks from conventional form because the lines do not rhyme. Grandfather Uyemura himself breaks from tradition in that he returns to Japan in person rather than trusting a snapshot to deliver a life partner to him.

His early adult life is lucky. His exuberance and good fortune are shown in the shining chrome of his Packard, at which he proudly beams. There is also an invincibility evident in the second stanza: After a lucky night at gambling, he greets even the thorns on the roses. He will not let hurtful things bother him. His imprisonment in the relocation camps with other Japanese does not defeat the spirits of either him or his wife. Their strength is that they have each other—for companionship and love—and their heritage.

At dinner, Grandfather Uyemura folds an origami crane out of a napkin, to the amusement and rapture of his wife. Besides signifying flight or freedom of spirit as any bird imagery would do, the crane has long symbolized for cultures ranging from China to the Mediterranean three other qualities: justice, longevity, and the good and diligent soul. The poem shows that Grandfather Uyemura possesses all three of those traits. Though treated with gross injustice, he unquestioningly does what he is ordered to do; he outlives his wife; and he is a good person who works hard. In Japanese, the name he has...

(The entire section is 535 words.)