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Japanese-American Internmet Camp Poem
Transcript of Japanese-American Internmet Camp Poem
Internment Camp Poem:
by Toyo Suyemoto
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 I would gain
From such untimely planting, or
What flower worth the pain?
More about the poem
Meaning of the Poem
What I Learned
Born in 1916 to Japanese
immigrants in Oroville, CA and grew up in Sacramento, CA
Her mom would read her and her 8 siblings Japanese translations of Shakespeare
In early teen years, she would publish poems in Japanese American community magazines and newspapers which made her a central figure in the northern California Nisei literary community
She describes how she is attempting to adjust to being in camp life, but the not knowing of how long she would be there made it hard to become comfortable and adjust to the circumstances.
She also wonders if it is even worth it to begin a life there if everything can change in an instant
She studied at University of California, Berkeley and majored in English
Had a child in 1941 with her husband at the time who later abandoned her and their son, Kay, when Kay was only three weeks old
Toyo and Kay, along with her parents and siblings, were eventually sent to Topaz, Utah for internment
Worked at a makeshift library in the camp and taught English
by Toyo Suyemoto
She persuaded Suyemoto to write a poem about internment to be published in the first edition in December of 1942.
Her friend from Berkeley,
Miné Okubo, who was also a recognized artist, began a journal for the camp called "Trek"
She also mentions in her book that writing poems gave her something to do and gave her a hobby to keep her busy. Hobbies were important to the people of the camp because it gave them purpose and comfort.
She continued to work on the future editions of the Trek where more of her poems were published during her time in the camp.
After the internment camps, she kept her interest in writing by continuing to write poems about internment and worked at the library of the University of Cincinnati
In her book, "I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment" she states "The hope was not so buoyant when we wondered how long we would be detained and what would become of us once the war ended. Although we could talk about happier times in our former homes, some of us had the premonition we would never return to California" (135).
In the beginning, many of the Japanese Americans in the camp were afraid and unsure about what the future held but through hobbies and support from their small community made the uncertainty bearable
By making the best of their situation, it eased their fear and helped them continue life after the camp
Streamas, John. "Toyo Suyemoto." Densho Encyclopedia. 27 Sep 2013, 22:57 PDT. 20 Oct 2017, 10:04 <http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Toyo%20Suyemoto/>.
Suyemoto, Toyo, and Susan B. Richardson. I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto's Years of Internment. , 2007. Print.
“Topaz Japanese-American Relocation Center Digital Collection.” USU Digital Collections, Utah State University, digital.lib.usu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/Topaz.