We are awesome!

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Guyana President Donald RamotarGuyana President Donald Ramotar
U.N. General Assembly – New York – September 2014
Photo Credit: World Politics Review

 

During my adolescent years in Guyana, everything was nice. The dress was nice; the food was nice; people were nice. The word nice was so overused that our high school English teacher prohibited us from its use in our essays.

By the time I moved to the United States, everything had become awesome. Your macaroni and cheese is awesome! You look awesome! I’m awesome!

Notwithstanding the American excessive use of the word awesome, I was taken aback at a Fox News TV host’s response to the recent release of the CIA Torture Report covering the Bush-Cheney period in government (January 2001 to January 2009). Continue reading

Miracles Happen

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Natal de Luz 2014 - Fortaleza - Ceara - BrazilNatal de Luz 2014 – Christmas of Light 2014
Fortaleza – Ceará – Brazil
Photo Credit: Prefeitura de Fortaleza

 

The Christmas Season is here! The kid in me loves the Christmas lights and music. I love, too, the Christmas movies in which all things are possible. People look out for others. They are forgiving, generous, and compassionate. Miracles abound.

During our Brazil years, the miracle that stands out from all the other miracles occurred the year my then-husband returned to Guyana. Shortly thereafter, still reeling from being abandoned, I received an eviction notice from our landlord. Discovering we were three months in arrears with our rent sent me spinning. Continue reading

The Haiku Master by Takiko Morimoto

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The Haiku Master by Takiko MorimotoBook Cover of The Haiku Master by Takiko Morimoto

 

Some books touch our lives in unexpected ways, changing the way we look at life. The Haiku Master by Japanese American author, Takiko Morimoto, is one such book. Based on the life of Japan’s most famous poet in the Edo Period, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), Morimoto’s historical novel brings to life the unrecorded early years that shaped his emergence as a haikai poet.

When we first meet Kinsaku (Basho’s birth name), he is thirteen years old with dreams of becoming a samurai warrior. In seventeenth-century Japan, with its strict class structure under the feudal lords, the young Kinsaku could never realize his dream. He’s the son of a poor farmer and former gunnery soldier.

On his father’s death, Kinsaku obtains work in the kitchen of the Iga Castle. Given the new name, Hanhichi (seven and half), his main duties are fetching water from the well, cleaning the kitchen, and serving meals to the room of the Head Samurai. After three years of faithful service, he is transferred to the Head Samurai’s residence to serve as page to the lord’s young son, Sengin, two years his senior.

As page and companion to the samurai prince, Hanhichi trains in martial arts, studies classical literature, and learns to compose haikai no renga, a form of collaborative poetry composition that his master enjoyed. Sengin calls him Sobo, his pen name as a new haikai poet.

When his master and companion dies, Sobo’s life is turned upside-down. He not only loses his closest friend, but also his chances of developing as a haikai poet.

Haikai was introduced to him almost accidentally, but now it is part of him. Without it, he cannot live. After his inner world welcomed him as a young Haikai poet, Sobo has found Haikai to be his most important resource for dealing with life. Haikai offers humor and freedom from restrictive traditional values. When linking his Haikai verses with verses by others, he feels connected, sharing the sweetness and sourness of their lives. (The Haiku Master, p.79)

While showing Sobo’s struggles to achieve his new dream of becoming a haikai poet and master, Morimoto also explores the bisexual poet’s intimate and adventurous relationships with the men and women he loved and lost.

In linking some of Sobo’s haikai to events in his life, Morimoto gives new meaning to his poetry. His grief in losing Sengin is expressed in the following poem (p.84):

The autumn wind howls
through the open sliding door
with a piercing voice.

Years later, when the first woman in his life leaves him, he writes his farewell haikai verse (p.113):

Over the high cloud
Far from a friend, a wild goose
Departs forever!

Morimoto’s Basho does not forget his humble origins and his familial obligations. As in his poetry, he gives his all in love and friendship, oftentimes at great cost to himself. His sensibility and tenacity touched my soul.

TAKIKO MORIMOTO

Takiko Morimoto - Japanese American authorBorn and raised in Japan, Takiko Morimoto graduated with a philosophy degree from the Tokyo University of Education, specializing in Japanese thought in the Edo period. After earning a Doctorate in Education from the University of California Los Angeles, she taught Japanese language and literature at universities and colleges for twenty-five years.

The Haiku Master, published in the USA in September 2014, is the result of ten years of research and the author’s actual retracing of Basho’s famous pilgrimage to Japan’s Deep North.

In 2014, Takiko Morimoto’s Japanese language novel about Basho was nominated the finalist of the 14th Historical and Romantic Novel Literary Award in Tokyo.

 

Racial Equality: The Impossible Dream

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Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old ManHands Up Don’t Shoot – Justice for Mike Brown
Ferguson – Missouri – USA – November 2014
Photo Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images

 

For millennia, humankind has been plagued with some form of inequality among its populations. As our societies grew, increased in complexity, and became globalized, so did the nature and degree of inequality.

Like a living human organism, inequality has a gender, race, ethnicity, and class that determine income and wealth disparities. To make matters worse, inequality dictates our access to a home, education, healthcare, and protection under our justice system.

Faced with racial inequality, the majority African-American community of Ferguson, Missouri, has received no justice for Mike Brown, an eighteen-year-old black male killed by a white policeman in August 2014. Continue reading

Guyana Faces a Moral Crisis

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Homeless and Invisible - GuyanaHomeless man asleep on sidewalk outside Parliament Buildings
Georgetown, Guyana – October 2014
Photo Credit: Mark Jacobs

 

On Monday, November 10, 2014, the Guyana government entered into shutdown mode. Facing the threat of a “no-confidence” motion from a combined opposition against his administration, President Donald Ramotar “prorogued” the 65-member National Assembly or Parliament. He invoked a provision from the 1980 Constitution, framed by the former autocratic government of President Forbes Burnham. Such a drastic move could throw the country into a state of limbo for up to six months.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, the Indo-Guyanese dominated party of Marxist Cheddi Jagan finally came to power in 1992 and has remained in power since then. Government corruption, unsolved criminal activity, police brutality, and extra-judicial killings – common during the Burnham dictatorship – continue unabated. Continue reading

Frustration at Filing for Divorce in Brazil

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Divorce - When a Marriage FailsDivorce – When a Marriage Fails
Photo Credit: culturamix.com

 

Marriages are tested under fire. Some marriages survive the flame, forging a stronger bond. Others suffer third degree burns, weakening the union. My marriage belonged to the latter group. When it ended in Brazil, I had not only failed as a wife but also had to confront the demon of divorce.

“I can’t sponsor you and your sons to come to America unless you’re divorced,” my mother told me.

I opened my Jerusalem Bible for guidance. In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 19), Jesus was clear about divorce.

“[W]hat God has united, man must not divide… Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife…and marries another, is guilty of adultery.”

Alone and broken with two kids in a foreign country, I spent a year of soul searching to come to terms with what I needed to do in order to reunite with my family. Continue reading

“Jungle Rot and Open Arms” – Poem by Janice Mirikitani

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070711-D-7203T-004Wounded War Veteran with wife at the Walter Reed Medical Center
Photo Credit: Cherie A. Thurlby / National Military Family Association

 

November 11 is Veterans Day. It’s an official American holiday to honor the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The date marks the anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

To commemorate this day, my Poetry Corner November 2014 features the poem “Jungle Rot and Open Arms” by Janice Mirikitani, a sansei or third-generation Japanese American born in 1941 in Stockton, California.

Janice Mirikitani’s life was touched by two wars: World War II and the Vietnam War. As an infant during World War II, she was interned with her family and other Japanese American families in the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas.

At the end of the war, to avoid the racism still prevailing on the West Coast, Mirikitani’s family moved to Chicago. Her parents’ marriage did not survive the tumult in their lives. Writing became a source of comfort for the fledgling poet. Continue reading

On Leaving Guyana

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Guyanese boarding Aircraft at Cheddi Jagan International AirportBoarding aircraft at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport – Guyana
Photo Credit: Guyana Times International

 

The worse part about emigration is not the brain drain. It’s the fragmentation of the family and community. Before my time came to leave the land of my birth, I had already lost to emigration, aunts, uncles, cousins, school friends, my three brothers, my sister, and my mother. Only my father and I had remained. Marriage gave me a new family with new connections.

Like thousands of other Guyanese over the years, they left for all kinds of reasons: higher education, reunite with family, economic hardships, racial and other violence, political victimization, corruption, crime, and more. Continue reading

U.S. Midterm Elections: Vote Wisely

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Homeless in the USAHomeless in the USA
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon / Paltalk News Network

 

November 4 is Midterm Elections in the United States. Americans will be choosing their representatives for the United States Congress, state governors, and their state legislatures. A number of citizen initiatives also have their place on the ballots.

While we’re busy pursuing our individual goals and dreams or simply struggling to survive, the rich and powerful One Percent are buying our government representatives and, through them, changing the laws in their favor.

America is no longer the nation that our Founding Fathers had envisaged. We have lost our way. Continue reading

“In Search of Childhood” – Poem by Brazilian Poet Anilda Leão

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Street Children - Sao Paulo - BrazilStreet Children in São Paulo – Brazil
Photo Credit: Devamor Amancio / ONG

 

October 12 is Children’s Day in Brazil. It’s a fun time for children across Brazil. On their special day, children receive toys from their parents and relatives. The day is celebrated with children parties, family outings, and special local events. It’s a day for families to share in the joys of childhood.

To commemorate Brazil’s Children’s Day, my Poetry Corner October 2014 features the poem “À Procura da Infância” (In Search of Childhood) by Brazilian poet Anilda Leão (1923-2012). Born in Maceió, capital of the Northeastern State of Alagoas, she grew up in a privileged middle-class family. Her father was a business owner and a respected politician in the 1940s and 1950s. Continue reading

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