A seven-year collaboration with poet Margaret Chula and quilt
artist Cathy Erickson on the subject of the internment of Japanese Americans
during World War II. This multi-media collaboration is like walking through a
perfectly designed museum show. Each poem is written in the voice of a
different fictional character—from a little boy playing with snakes to a woman
obsessing over her smashed wedding plates before evacuation. Each quilt
resonates, through design, color and fabric with the emotions evoked by the
“This is truly a beautiful, remarkable achievement—two artists
bringing history to life through visionary quilts and insightful writings.”
Lawson Fusao Inada, Poet
Laureate of Oregon 2006-2010
Author of Only What We
They loaded us onto
trucks bound for the camps
our homes, our possessions, our land
just because we were Japanese – Japanese
Two suitcases were
all we were allowed for clothes
photos, keepsakes –
twenty years of our lives in America.
Your grandfather was
taken right off his fishing boat.
I was cooking the
evening meal when they came.
Your mother sat at
the kitchen table studying for a test.
That night I cut
strips of cloth from garments
I had to leave
behind. And from them I sewed this quilt.
Each stitch, a
remembrance – each square, rectangle a tribute
to nature’s bounty in
the desolation of Heart Mountain.
I stitched in the
comfort of kasuri,
the smell of wood
smoke on rain-black nights,
of days when rain
fell soft and even as my child’s breath.
I stitched in
triangles of flowers from my wedding kimono.
And as I quilted, I
whispered their names: kiku, hagi, kikyô
clover, Chinese bell flower.
How cheerful those
curtains of plumeria, hibiscus that hung
in our bedroom, their
perfume a dream of Hawaii. I sewed in
beauty and vertical
rays of yellow, the sun that shone through
the barbed wire and
the curtainless windows of our barracks.
The orange poppies
were last, fashioned from your mother’s
hair ribbons. I
planted them as an afterthought –
blooming with hope.
Click to Read a review by Karen Braucher for the Portland Examiner, July 7, 2009
Chula has been writing and teaching haiku, tanka, and haibun for nearly
thirty-five years. Her previous collections of poetry include: Grinding my
ink (Haiku Society of America Book Award);
Shadow Lines (linked haibun with Rich Youmans); Always
Filling, Always Full; This Moment; The Smell of Rust; and What
Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps with quilt artist Cathy
Erickson. She also has produced a CD of haiku from Grinding my ink with
woodwind musician Ken Ulansey. Her haiku have been printed on Itoen tea
cans sold in stores and vending machines all over Japan, on billboards in Tokyo
train stations, and on a construction site fence in Portland, Oregon, for the
new Orange Line transit system.
is also a performance artist, promoting tanka through her one-woman show ‘Three
Women Who Loved Love,’ using music, dialogue, and period costumes to re-enact
the lives of poets Izumi Shikibu, Akiko Yosano, and Masajo Suzuki. ‘Three
Women’ premiered in Krakow in 2003 and toured to New York, Boston, Portland,
Ottawa, and Ogaki, Japan.
work has been supported by grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council
and Oregon Literary Arts as well as fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center,
the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and Hypatia-in-the-Woods.
currently serves as President of the Tanka Society of America and as Poet
Laureate for Friends of Chamber Music. Having lived in Kyoto for twelve years,
she now makes her home in Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, gardens, swims,
and creates flower arrangements for every room of the house.
to Maggie read at the Oregon Poetic Voices Project
view her poems at Mark Thalman’s poetry.us.com
on her website