Major Haiku Conference Set for Long Beach

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LONG BEACH — Haiku North America, one of the largest gatherings of haiku poets in the world outside of Japan, is holding its 12th annual conference at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, from Aug. 14 to 19.

Satsuki Ina

On Thursday, Aug. 15, starting at 7 p.m., Haiku North America 2013 is honored to present a poetry reading and film screening, free and open to the public, on the haiku and senryu of Japanese Americans during their World War II imprisonment.

“My Father’s Poetry” will feature a discussion with and readings by poet Mitsuye Yamada and filmmaker Satsuki Ina. The fathers of both women were prominent haiku and senryu poets involved in the thriving Japanese American literary scene in the early 20th century, which was suppressed during and after the war. Even when imprisoned, the poets continued to write haiku and senryu, expressing not only outrage and despair, but also the sublime moments and humorous absurdities that become even more apparent when uprooted from home, separated from family, and suffering through life behind barbed wire.

Yamada, author of “Camp Notes and Other Writings” (1976) and “Desert Run: Poems and Stories” (1988), will talk about the senryu groups that her father founded before, during, and after the war, and how her father’s poetry impacted her life as a poet. She will read senryu written by her father in addition to some of her own longer-form poetry.

Yamada has spent her life fighting for women’s representation and increased multicultural understanding and respect. A retired English professor and founder of Multicultural Women Poets of Orange County, she was featured with Nellie Wong in the 1981 film “Mitsuye and Nellie: Two Asian American Poets.”

Ina was born in Tule Lake Segregation Center, where her family was imprisoned during the war. She has produced two award-winning documentaries about the Japanese American World War II experience, “Children of the Camps” and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story,” and is a professor emeritus at CSU Sacramento.

MItsuye Yamada (Rafu Shimpo photo)

Ina will share and read the haiku poetry of her father, who wrote some of his most sublime and evocative haiku during the war.

“From a Silk Cocoon,” which will be screened at 8 p.m., tells the true story of Dr. Ina’s parents, Itaru and Shizuko Ina, who were imprisoned at Tanforan Assembly Center (in race track horse stalls) and then at Tule Lake, located in a desolate region of Northern California. Woven into the story are haiku and senryu written by Itaru that evoke his feelings of betrayal by his country and his longing for his distant family.

This program is organized by Haiku North America, a 501(c)non-profit organization, and is made possible through the generous support of conference donors and registered attendees. Haiku North America meets every two years at a different city in North America. This is the first time the conference has been held in Southern California in its 24-year history. More information can be found online at www.haikunorthamerica.com.

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