Home Culture Wealth of Interesting Poems in I Weave a Nest of Foil

Wealth of Interesting Poems in I Weave a Nest of Foil

Wealth of Interesting Poems in I Weave a Nest of Foil

By Pamela A. Okano
NAP Contributor

Poetry has been a significant part of Japanese culture since the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Some of our readers may know of Matsuo Bashō, the great Japanese haiku master of the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868). Even today, the Japanese play a popular card game (hyakunin isshu karuta) that involves Japanese poetry.

Nikkei have carried on this ancient tradition. Even before World War II, the Issei were writing poetry. It continued in the Japanese incarceration camps, where all three Nikkei generations wrote poems. Even today, some Nikkei are writing poetry.

One current Japanese American poet is Seattle native Arlene Naganawa. Her latest book, I Weave a Nest of Foil, is a slim volume containing 38 poems, many of which were published earlier in various publications. Some poems are poignant, some are happy, and others are, at the very least, thought-provoking.

The poem “We Wanted Billy, Even Though” starts with Billy whose “face was spotted like grease soaking the white paper we packed fries in,” but then morphs into the boys in Vietnam. “My Mug from Japan Says Enjoy the Happiness Time” celebrates a Japanese friend, “a sun from another world.”

In “I Receive,” a baby girl dies. The poem asks, “[B]ut oh how strong does a mother have to be?” This poem resonated with me the most, because when I was in first grade, my baby brother died from a previously undiagnosed congenital heart problem. How strong did my parents have to be during that time?

For those who enjoy poetry, and for those who might want to start exploring it, this small book provides a wealth of interesting poems.

Pamela A. Okano is a retired Seattle attorney.