Mitsuye Yamada(1923- ) Born in Japan, in 1923, Mitsuye Yamada, grew up in Seattle, Washington. She was incarcerated with her family in Idaho in 1942. She and her brother were released from the camp when they renounced loyalty to the Emperor of Japan. She began her studies at the University of Cincinnati in 1944 and … Continued
Born in Japan, in 1923, Mitsuye Yamada, grew up in Seattle, Washington. She was incarcerated with her family in Idaho in 1942. She and her brother were released from the camp when they renounced loyalty to the Emperor of Japan. She began her studies at the University of Cincinnati in 1944 and completed her degree at New York University in 1947. She earned a Master’s degree from University of Chicago in 1953. Yamada’s first book, Camp Notes and Other Poems, addresses the internment of Japanese-Americans. Desert Run: Poems and Stories, is another book work that speaks to how the Japanese were discriminated against during the war.
“Cincinnati,” in Camp Notes
Freedom at last in this town aimless I walked against the rush hour traffic My first day in a real city where
no one knew me.
No one except one hissing voice that said dirty jap warm spittle on my right cheek. I turned and faced the shop window and my spittle face spilled onto a hill of books. Words on display.
poetry . . .has been my spiritual guide throughout
my incarcerationin the darkest of times I turn
to Neruda and Hikmetand Rukeyser and Ritsas
and Chrytos and Whitman. . . – U.S. Political Prisoner
They mean to kill the sentient being in me Neutralize!
White white no poetry in white floors walls ceiling white white chairs tables sink white only when I close my eyes do I see beyond the white windowless walls remembering springtime of lacy trees lightly green against baby blue.
There is silence silence more silence to drown out the incessant silence I fill my inner ear with robinsongs melodious and soothing but how to quell deafening nonhuman screeches and scrapes sounds bouncing against the white walls?
Dull smells of dead air in the cell but through the olfactory nerves in my mind I can tickle with the zest of lemon and the sweetness of wildflowers.
Willfully bland diet aimed to erase use of my tongue Add a pinch of salt with the taste of sweat or even of blood anywhere on my body Remembering the taste of cheese.
One human touch allowed my own arms enfold me my fingers move over my sagging breasts my nipples and soft parts of my body respond.
They mean to neutralize me but poetry keeps me alive.
The Voices Education Project offers tools, philosophies, and learning methods that will help young people understand the roots of conflict and the trauma of war, confront the pain and fear at the heart of conflict, and help to build healthy human communities in the wake of war. We use the arts and education to transform the consciousness of young people, give teachers and students a way to explore the most important and terrifying issues of our day, and create a dialogue in which all voices can be heard, and all points of view included, without engendering fear, hatred, or anger.