Shedding Silence - Janice Mirikitani
Janice Mirikitani's poems frequently tell of the experiences of her parents and their family, interned during World War II, and burn with the pain of racism. She, and other women she writes about, are burdened and compressed. Nearly every poem in this collection speaks anger, even ones that commemorate happy occasions exult in the overcoming of past slights. It's not heavy-handed because the language is always inventive, finely judged, not repetitive. (Though there are some poems with subjects taken from the headlines which are generally not as successful as more personal ones -- the best of them find some personal link in the news.) Anger is joyful here because of the relief of speaking out. But also there is a whole lot of violence in these poems, both narrated and imagined; Mirikitani looks at it straight on, even incorporates it. There are lots of plant metaphors and narrations of gardening and agriculture, because these things were so vital to her mother and grandmother, and it seems she gardens herself. These poems seem pretty successful in form to me because they chose the right words, in the right order, and in balance (enough of one sentence not too much of another) -- as for the rhythms, I'd really like to hear the author read them.