Author Sally Ito led last month Mata Ashita writing group with a workshop on the tradition of storytelling. Read an excerpt from the collaborative poem inspired by Sally Ito. Photo credit: Warren Cariou.
With many returning writers and new faces as well, moments of family connection were shared in breakout rooms, resulting in heartfelt writing across generations.
Inspired by the closing poem in Ito’s book, The Emperor’s Orphans, Mata Ashita writers each contributed a line of “directions,” guided by their own memories, to the “never-arriving home” of Japanese Canadian identity. You can read a short excerpt from this powerful collaborative poem below.
Mapping our generations
after Sally Ito’s Nation of Birds
Dreaming of walking through your well-tended garden,
we turn left to catch the streetcar to tomorrow.
Bright smiles when talking about bachan, but confusion searching for
roots in Japan. I’ve run away again;
The old familiar house is gone, with my childhood
memories. I may not have the spoken language, but I think I have the heart
of it, learned from my parents. Pour water in the kappa’s sara and follow it
by uncle’s gramophone, playing nothing but Japanese opera.
Find a tray, filled with sweet inarizushi. My grandmother’s house
smelled strangely wonderful – green tea, rice, pink bean cakes and incense.
In another world, we feel perplexed, then humiliated, when the waitress
at the Eaton’s snack bar served our friends but refused to take our order.
A thread of Japanese ways rises, submerges, and then rises again
in the Canadian tapestry of my days, my life. Memories travel
with longing through time. There is always company
at this never-arriving home.
Much appreciation to contributors Angela Uyeda, Calvin Jim, Lillian Nakamura Maguire, Linz Kenyon, Misty Cozac, Pat Rose, Sachiko Okuda, Sharon Kawabata and others for sharing their beautiful words. Thanks to Mata Ashita speaker Michael Prior, these writers will soon receive a copy of his latest book of poetry, Burning Province.
Prior will be visiting Mata Ashita on March 6, followed by Jeff Chiba Stearns and Lillian Michiko Blakey on April 3, Hiromi Goto and Erica Hiroko Isomura on May 1, and Ruth Ozeki on June 5.
To register for an upcoming workshop, please find Mata Ashita on Instagram @matashitawriting or visit www.eventbrite.ca/e/mata-ashita-the-japanese-canadian-writers-circle-tickets-132358986291