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They Never Asked: Senryū Poetry from the WWII Portland Assembly Center

July 29, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Experience a unique moment in history through poetry. Poems composed by numerous local Japanese American poets during World War II were kept in a journal by Masaki Kinoshita and discovered by his grandson Duane Watari. These poems and their translations were compiled into the book They Never Asked – Senryū Poetry from the WWII Portland Assembly Center. Come hear personal stories and insights from the editors Shelley Baker-Gard, Michael Freiling, and Satsuki Takikawa, as well as Duane Watari himself!

Saturday, July 29
3-4 PM: Presentation
4-5 PM: Book signing

At the Japanese American Museum of Oregon
411 Flanders St., Portland, OR
(Corner of 4th and Flanders; entrance on 4th)

RSVP here

More about the book

In 1942, after Executive Order 9066 was issued, Japanese families were removed from their homes in Oregon and the Yakima Valley and sent to the Portland International Livestock Exposition Center, where they were housed in converted animal stalls for the summer before being transported to permanent incarceration camps.

The Japanese American communities in Oregon and southern Washington were relatively small and many of the detainees knew each other; they drew on existing family and community networks to help each other through the long summer, living in inhumane conditions under the constant threat of violence. Several members of Bara Ginsha, a Portland poetry group, decided to continue their work while imprisoned at the center, primarily by writing senryū, a type of Japanese poetry related to haiku.

They Never Asked is a collection of work produced by Bara Ginsha members in the WCCA camp, based on a journal kept by Masaki Kinoshita. The senryū collected here were written by a group of twenty-two poets, who produced hundreds of poems. Individually, the poems reflect the thoughts and feelings the authors experienced while being detained in the center; collectively, they reflect the resilience and resistance of a community denied freedom. Editors Shelley Baker-Gard, Michael Freiling, and Satsuki Takikawa present translations of the poems alongside the originals, supplemented by historical and literary context and a foreword by Duane Watari, Masaki Kinoshita’s grandson.


July 29, 2023
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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