Stone, Bow, Prayer (book)
Creators: Amy Uyematsu
Sansei poet Amy Uyematsu's fourth book of poetry, organized in twelve sections, each representing a month in the ancient Chinese lunar calendar that Japan adopted in the seventh century A.D.
Uyematsu covers a variety of themes in the book, from changes to an aging woman's body, to Buddhist philosophy and the intersection of mathematics and poetry.
In the fifth section of the book, "Satsuki: Month of Planting Rice Shoots," Uyematsu includes two poems about the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans and its lingering effects on her. In one, "Desert Camouflage," dedicated to her maternal grandfather, she writes how her Issei forebear, an American World War I veteran, led morning exercise classes at the " Tulare Assembly Center " and later convinced Nikkei at the Gila River camp to assemble camouflage netting, earning him suspicion among some other Issei. Uyematsu concludes the poem with the ironic question: How many American soldiers would ever suspect / the netting protecting them was sewn by Issei / "whose faces could never be camouflaged?"
She follows-up with a poem, "I'm Old Enough to Know Better," about lingering racial insensitivities she encounters in contemporary Southern California decades after World War II: A fellow teacher assumes she's the Korean language instructor; strangers on the street tell her, "Oriental massage good"—signals that people still perceive her as a racial emblem, just as many Americans during World War II judged Japanese Americans solely by their race.
But Uyematsu concludes the section with "1110 on My Transistor Dial," a paean to the multicultural 1960s of Uyematsu's Southern California adolescence, symbolized by a Los Angeles A.M. radio station that played soul music and rhythm and blues for teens of all ethnicities, including Japanese Americans. Uyematsu lovingly writes:
This was the sixties, when there was nothing strange
About my being J-A in a small Wasp town, listeningNothing but black and brown soul.
to Chicanos phoning in dedications to a faceless deejay
named Huggy Boy, ethnicity unknown, who played
Uyematsu's memories are a harbinger for the multiethnic society that the rest of the country would become decades later.
For More Information
Uyematsu, Amy. Stone, Bow, Prayer . Port Townsend, Wash.: Copper Canyon Press, 2006.