The Poetry of Pain and its Meaning in the Age of COVID-19
(written jointly with Shelley Baker-Gard)
In late 2017, Shelley was presented with a manuscript of poems, all in Japanese. They were brought to her by a third generation Japanese-American who had discovered them among his mother’s keepsakes, and believed the poems had been written by his grandfather, Masaki Kinoshita, who wrote under the pen name of Jonan.
As we opened the manuscript and began to study it, we were surprised to discover that these poems had been written in an unexpected context – the Wartime Civilian Control Administration’s (W.C.C.A.) North Portland Assembly Center, where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in the months after Pearl Harbor for eventual dispatch to camps farther inland, such as Heart Mountain in Wyoming and Minidoka in Idaho. The manuscript was, in fact, a transcript of senryu poems composed at the Assembly Center during August of 1942.