Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

My year of Joy Kogawa House and Haiku

November 26, 2017

For me, 2017 has been a year connected to Joy Kogawa House.

Historic Joy Kogawa House is the childhood home of Canadian author Joy Kogawa, who wrote the ground-breaking novel Obasan, a fictional story based on Joy’s memories of being interned as a child during WW II, along with thousands of other Canadians of Japanese descent. Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, the house was built in 1912-13. Joy and her family lived there from 1937 until they were interned in 1942. During the war, the house was confiscated and sold, and Joy’s family was not able to return to Marpole. Years later, however, Joy lent her support to a community campaign that saved the house from demolition. Today, the house is a space for author residencies, literary events, as well as remembering the injustices experienced by Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, and moving toward healing and reconciliation.

Joy Kogawa House c 1938

Joy and her brother at the front (west side) of the house c. 1938

 

I was grateful to be offered a writing residency at the house, which was initially planned for February. Since February is National Haiku Writing Month (the shortest month of the year for the shortest form of poetry), and haiku is one of my passions, I decided to focus on haiku, and to partner with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF), preparing for the spring blossom celebration and the festival’s international haiku contest. Plans shifted slightly, and rather than staying at the house in February, I organized a poetry reading and haiku workshop, and worked with the VCBF on koinobori scale-painting activities in preparation for Sakura Days Japan Fair without staying at Joy Kogawa House (which I was able to do since I live in the Vancouver area). (More on these activities in an earlier blog post.)

Joy Kogawa House events

February poetry reading, plus haiku workshop & koi scale painting

In May, I visited the house for a reading and performance of “A Suitcase full of Memories” by Joy Kogawa and Soramaru Takayama of Japanese Poets North of 49, and was delighted to meet and briefly chat with Joy afterwards.

In July, I was able to live at the house and work on my own writing projects, finishing a verse novel for children, and co-editing an anthology of haiku poetry written by members of the Vancouver Haiku Group. I started the month by hosting a book-making workshop given by poet and book artist Terry Ann Carter from Victoria, which brought together many creative people, and was an inspiring kick-off to my in-house residency. Staying at the house by myself gave me time and space to focus on writing without my usual distractions, making a big difference to my writing pattern and productivity. I also enjoyed the opportunity to explore and get to know the Marpole neighbourhood, including its tree-lined streets, housing mix, history, and changing local culture, and to relax in the peaceful stillness of the backyard where a young Joy Kogawa once played.

four images

I returned to the house to live and work at the end of August, and also hosted a presentation by my friend and colleague Jean-Pierre Antonio, a professor at Suzuka University in Japan, who gave us a fascinating account of the life of Japanese immigrant Masayuki Yano through the translation of Mr. Yano’s pre-WW II diaries.

Jean-Pierre's talk

At the end of September, my haiku activities at the house concluded with the hosting of An Evening of Japanese Poetic Forms: from the Tokaido Road to the World Stage, with Terry Ann Carter reading from her new book of haibun (prose with haiku), Tokaido (Red Moon Press), Rachel Enomoto sharing haiku, and Kozue Uzawa reading tanka and leading participants in a short tanka-writing workshop.

Japanese forms reading

An Evening of Japanese Forms, a Word Vancouver event (with thanks to Tracey Wan for the bottom right photo)

In early November, Joy Kogawa returned to the house to read from her children’s picture book, Naomi’s Tree, which was a treat for all of us who came out to listen and celebrate the old cherry tree in the laneway behind Joy Kogawa House. The tree now has a plaque, encouraging people to seek it out on their neighbourhood walks.

So now, I seem to have come full circle, enjoying the house in each season, and again, looking ahead to early spring when the cherry blossoms will bloom again.

P1220292

My workspace while in residence at Joy Kogawa House (looking out at the old cherry tree behind the back fence)

 

To close, here are a few simple haiku written during my stay:

 

no need

for an alarm clock

early morning crows

 

picking the last

ripe raspberry

evening robin

 

And from my evening walk past the elementary school young Joy Kogawa attended:

 

fading daylight

the empty swing

still swinging

 

 

West Coast flash fiction

January 30, 2016

I love flash fiction (very short stories that you can read in one quick gulp). Here is my attempt at one, inspired by summer camp memories and a First Nations legend of the west coast forest:


D’Sonoqua

I scrunch deeper into the salal, loosening the sweet scent of ripening berries, letting the thick leaves close around me. The twitter of birds stops suddenly, and I freeze as footsteps pound down the forest path. No one sees me. From further up the trail, girls’ voices drift through the trees.

“I see you, Cara!” Olivia, the girl who is IT, calls shrilly.

“Home free!” another voice shouts.

Then silence. It’s as if the sounds have been smothered by the thick moss that covers everything.

Something snuffles on the other side of the salal. A wild animal? No, it is probably that girl from cabin 6 who breaths through her mouth. I keep as still as possible, holding my breath.

“I see you, Madison!” Olivia’s voice is a thin thread, tangled and lost among the big trees, the ancient ferns and the absorbing moss.

The snuffling beyond the salal moves on.

Then Madison’s theatrical scream pierces the forest. It’s the same scream she used to end the lame scary story she told in the cabin last night. As if the scream was enough to make it scary. No murderer with a bloody chainsaw. No crazy knife-wielding hitch-hiker. Just some Wild Woman of the Woods who catches children who wander into the forest. Not much of a story, but the other girls in the cabin hang on Madison’s every word.

I listen for another shout from Olivia, or Madison’s triumphant laugh. Ha Ha, I scared you. But there is nothing.

I consider emerging from my hiding spot and running for Home. But I don’t move.

The forest is silent. Even the birds remain quiet. Waiting.

D'Sonoqua-crop2

 *  *  *

For more flash fiction, check out author kc dyer‘s Festive Flash Fiction Advent Calendar posted in December, which includes flash fiction by kc and other authors. Here are the links to the flash fiction I shared there:

Fight or Flight

The Small Green Snake

Yarn bombing

Accordion Book Directions (with bonus cat)

September 12, 2014

workshop -finished book

Last spring I did some accordion book-making with kids as part of a writing workshop I taught at the Kamloops Young Authors Conference. We talked about how each story is a “hero’s journey” (with a quest and obstacles to overcome along the journey), then we created accordion book plot diagrams (with participants plotting out their own hero’s journeys). The books are also meant to look old and mysterious ─part treasure map and part talisman. The kids’ books turned out great!

workshop in progress

Before the workshop, I set out my supplies to photograph the directions for making a simple accordion book. Of course, the first picture was photo-bombed by my cat (aptly named Curious, she always has to check out everything).

Curious


Accordion book supplies:

– two rectangle pieces of cardboard for book covers (cardboard from cereal boxes works well). (For the “Hero’s Journey” book project, I cut the cardboard 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches).

– two rectangle pieces of decorative paper for book covers (the pieces should be larger than the cardboard by about 1/4 inch or so all around). (For the “Hero’s Journey” book project, I cut the cover paper to 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches and used kraft packing paper, which I “aged” by crumpling up the paper, then smoothing it out and adding brown ink & tea bag staining).

– a strip of paper that will be accordion folded to make the book “pages.” When folded, the pages should be slightly smaller than the book covers (for the “Hero’s Journey project, I cut the paper strip 3 x 16 inches, which fit nicely inside the book covers when accordion folded into 2 x 3 sections –also, three of these strips could be cut from a 11 x 17 sheet of paper).

– ribbon or raffia string (my first thought was to use the natural coloured raffia for an antique look, but my cat tried to eat it, so I switched to fabric ribbon). The ribbon should be long enough to wrap around the finished book and tie (I used a 16 inch piece for the “Hero’s Journey” book).

– scissors, glue

– optional: tea bag & brown ink stamp pad for “aging” the covers and inside pages, small pieces of decorative paper to glue inside the covers (we used antique map images for this project), craft jewels & collage items for decorating the covers

Directions (the following photos are from a different accordion book project, using Japanese paper):

1. Once your two pieces of cardboard and two cover papers are cut, place your first piece of cardboard on top of the back of a piece of cover paper (ie on top the side you don’t want showing). Centre it, so that there is an equal overlap of paper around the cardboard.

step 2



step 3

2. Cut the corners off the cover paper at the corners of the cardboard.













3. Fold the edges of the cover paper, so that they wrap tightly over the sides of the cardboard. Glue. (Do this with both covers).

step 4













4. Glue ribbon to centre of inside back cover (with equal amount of ribbon on either side).







step 5

5. Fold long strip of paper in accordion fashion, so that it divides into equal rectangles sized slightly smaller than the covers. Glue end rectangle “page” of accordion folded strip onto centre of back cover (over the ribbon). Glue the first rectangle page over the inside of the remaining cover, so that when the accordion folds are folded together, the covers come together.

finished book




6. wrap the ribbon around the front of the book and tie a bow.