Gain by Toyo Suyemoto

GAIN by Toyo Suyemoto is featured in the first issue of TREK, a literary magazine published in December 1942 by Japanese Americans incarcerated in the Topaz Concentration Camp during World War II.

Source: The Utah State University Topaz Japanese American Relocation Center Digital Collection.

Information about Toyo Suyemoto:
Densho Encylopedia
Mapping Literary Utah
Ohio State University Japanese Collections

Text of the poem:


I sought to seed the barren earth
    And make wild beauty take
Firm root, but how could I have known
    The waiting long would shake

Me inwardly, until I dared
    Not say what would be gain
From such untimely planting, or
    What flower worth the pain?

                     — Toyo Suyemoto

Check out the Concentrational Poetic Resonance project to read more poems like this and learn about the poetry of the Japanese American World War II concentration camp experience.

Yone Noguchi’s “Japanese Hokkus”

Haiku is a form of poetry I return to again and again. Deceptively simple to write, I enjoy the challenge. I’ve written hundreds — maybe thousands. Most are… just okay, if not downright terrible. Some are, well, not bad, but not really hitting the mark. A rare few, if I dare say so myself, are meaningful and resonant. Haiku need to deliver a startling image and an emotional wallop in just a few beats. I’m not a stickler for the 5/7/5 syllable form, but do consider it a helpful and challenging framework to work within.

I swing into the habit of writing haiku as part of my routine — it helps me get started not just with putting something down on paper, but taking an emotional concept or image and describing it with words. The brevity of this particular poetic form helps me distill what I am trying to convey through story, whether that be a chapter in a novel or a longer form poem.

The above images are from Yone Noguchi’s Japanese Hokkus, published in 1920. Noguchi was the first Japanese-born writer to publish poetry in English, and is credited with introducing haiku to America, influencing the Imagist poets of the early 20th century. Here’s a great essay on Noguchi posted at the The Huntington library’s website: “Yone Noguchi and Haiku in the United States.”

Reading Noguchi’s “hokkus” and writing this short entry has inspired me to get back into haiku, as part of a daily creative ritual. Stay tuned!

Jeffrey Yamaguchi | @hiddenexhibit

“The Mystic Blue” by D.H. Lawrence

Fascinated by the way the last line, and only the last line, of the last poem (The Mystic Blue) is changed in the London and New York editions of Amores by D.H. Lawrence. Amores was published in 1916.

London Edition: “Of midnight and shake it to fire, till the flame of the shadow we see.”

New York Edition: “Of midnight shake it to fire, so the secret of death we see.”