The AACP Newsletter
Asian American Curriculum Project, Inc. - Books for All Ages
Since 1970 January 2005
Editor's Notes
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What's the Word for First Reading of the Year?

Our January Poetry

A review of Petals of the Vanda

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What's the Word for First Reading of the Year?
By Leonard Chan

This was going to be a new article on haiku and tanka poetry, but after I re-reading my article from last year on Kakizome, I thought I couldn't improve on it (have a look).

As Florence (Hongo) had pointed out to me after she saw my flyer for our January 8th book signing and poetry reading (which I titled as Kakizome in San Mateo) - our event should not be called a Kakizome event. Kakizome is the Japanese name given for the first calligraphy or writing done traditionally on the second day of the New Year.

Yes it's not a Kakizome event without the writing, but hopefully those of you that did your New Year's poetry writing will share them with us at our event. If you haven't written your poems yet, check out some of the links in our side panel for tips or have a look at some of our book suggestions listed below.

Even if you don't write for our event please come and listen. Like one hand clapping and the tree that falls in a forest that is not heard by anyone, writers are dependent on you the readers and listeners. Please make it a New Year's resolution to do more reading this year. All of us in the book business need you.

Last Year's
Haiku Links

Haiku for People
Jane Reichhold
Keiko Imaoka
Gerald England

New Links

Patricia Donegan's Seven Keys to Writing Haiku

Jane Reichhold on Tanka

American Tanka, Inc.

Richard MacDonald - What Is A Tanka?

Scholastic Inc. Poetry Writing Page for Kids (grades 1-8)

Up Coming Events

Here are some events that AACP will soon be attending.
Invite us to your events.
Jan. 8
Kakizome in San Mateo
Introducing our new book
Petals of the Vanda
Direction to AACP
San Mateo, CA
Feb. 2 Library Materials Fair Exhibit/Sales SC County
Office of Educ.

Santa Clara, CA
Other Event of Interest that AACP May Not Attend
Feb. 5-20 Chinese New Year
Celebration Events in SF
San Francisco, CA
Feb. 19
Chinese New Year Parade San Francisco, CA

Editor's Message

Hello everyone. Happy New Year!

I hope all of you within driving distance join us for our poetry reading and book-signing event this Saturday January 8th at 1pm. With your participation, we hope to make this event fun.

How many of you have already donated to tsunami relief? If you haven't already done so, Google has a list of tsunami relief organizations that are accepting donations. Check it out.

Thank you Hannah Maggiora Wallstrum for your poetry submission and for sharing your interesting family history. Thank you Margo King Lenson for the review of our new book Petals of the Vanda.

As always, we welcome your feedback. With your help we hope to keep our informative, pertinent, and interesting. Thank you for your support.

Leonard Chan
Executive Editor

Give Us Your Feedback

Please feel free to send us your reviews, comments, and book suggestions. You can contact us at -

Our January Poetry

Sonnet To Topaz, Utah
By Hannah Maggiora 8/03

Peanut brittle plain far as eyes can see
crackles right up to the pie crust mountains.
This land, primordial floor of the sea,
now sere host to spiky greasewood fountains.
Wind gives voice to the vagaries of Time;
ceaseless gusts gossip, share succulent secrets.
Broom handles lie in the brush, discarded
after sixty years the pain still unswept.
Small sturdy people with almond-shaped eyes
squeezed into narrow slits against the dust,
against accusations flashed from round eyes,
grew celery white in the cracks of trust.

When the meal served is so unsavory
Digesting it takes an act of bravery.

Both my parents worked as teachers in the Topaz Relocation Center, a place I visited 2 summers ago for the first time. My father, Robert Maggiora, Italian, felt he was "the enemy" too, but not so easy to spot, so he volunteered to go to the camp where his Japanese San Francisco friends and neighbors had gone. My mother, Patricia Bond, a Quaker, came to work, first at Tule Lake and, later, at Topaz, as a way to work for peace and justice. As a family, my parents, sister and I never visited either camp, but our parents gave us stories, photos, books about the whole experience. My visit to Topaz was made with my husband and my 20-year-old daughter, my way of passing along not only family history, but national history. We will never forget.

Newsletter Staff Haiku

Home Again
By Philip Chin

Rain like soft footsteps
Mother, Father, live again
In my daylight dreams.

New Year Sounds
By Leonard Chan

rustling leaves
familial voices giggle
on a chilled breeze

Petals of the Vanda
A review by Margo King Lenson
Editor of Pacific Voices: Talk Story v1-3

How Petals of the Vanda by Kurenai Tsuneko Hongo came together reminds me of Emily Dickinson's startling poetic life discovered upon her death. She left behind a treasury of poetry, mounds of little packets called "facsicles" neatly tied with ribbons and hidden away in a locked box. Emily meant for them to be found, otherwise they wouldn't exist; she simply didn't want to be around for the public handling of her words, ideas, and obsessions so privately born. The similarity I see between Emily's and Kurenai's unveiled artistry is their family's recognition of their prolific work as something that should be given to the world, not kept locked away or treated as a guarded heirloom. For Kurenai's family, whatever the obstacles - wars, internment, political and social changes; personal ups 'n downs; the passage of time - they were overcome to reach this point of publishing Petals of the Vanda thirty-six years after Kurenai's death. And the world is ever grateful for their effort.

Kurenai's poetry is called tanka, an ancient Japanese poetry form described by Hatsue Hongo Kawamoto as "pure, simple, spontaneous creations, and yet they have a depth of subtle meaning." Tanka is only true if there is not "too much thought" going into its writing. Otherwise, it is "no longer an expression of the true self."

In a spontaneous tanka moment Kurenai captures a tenacious void.

Half a century has passed already in this land
Yet there is a feeling that something is still missing

She has lived in Hawai`i these many years but the yearning for her homeland of Japan has never gone away. Her feeling reflects the irrepressible question, "What am I doing here?" that pops up for all of us in the most familiar surroundings. As a transplant in California for almost five decades, I know the feeling well even when I'm spouting that Hawai`i is no longer my home. It seems that where we are born and raised refuses to be forgotten; it doesn't matter how long, how settled, and how habituated our adopted environments become. Something will always be missing because there is no substitute for our rich memories of childhood further entwined with nature.

Violets I had picked under the cherry blossoms
Oh, those lovely spring days at Koganei are now far, far away

Kurenai's poetic life was renewed once her eight children were grown and on their own. It is at this time that she dedicates herself to her art. In her maturity, I sensed her urgency to capture memories, feelings, observations, and bursts of joy. She confronts nothingness with contentment.

In the soft rain, I pick red plums
I am absorbed in nothingness, how refreshing it is!

While expressing her creativity in this tight and disciplined poetic form of tanka, Kurenai delights in being fully alive in a scene that turns practically tangible.

From the heights swoops down the milky mist
And instantaneously enwraps me on the road

We can imagine her standing still on the road, watching the fog's whiteness move toward her in an embrace and then, surrendering to that embrace. Kurenai's tanka offers glimpses of her passion for nature and being fully engaged in it. Her words evoke a physicality that cannot be denied.

On New Year's Day, as I contemplate on poems,
I vaguely long for the odor of Chinese ink

Her sensitivity and humanity present themselves throughout her tanka with the careful structuring of the book in focused categories, including "Flowers," "Birds," "Friends," "Children," and "Life." In the "Life" chapter, I was breathless at this revelation:

At the end of a majestic line of leaves
Like red lips parted the orchid blooms

All I could think of was Wow. Especially interesting are Kurenai's experiences of Hawai`i's transformation from when she arrived in 1911. In the more than half-century that she lived in the Islands, she witnessed its transformation and creates a still-life of the past.

Long ago passing through the kiawe woods
I rode a horsedrawn buggy to an inn in Waikiki

When she writes of things Hawaiian in the tanka form, I can't help but consider the biculturalism she lived, of the rich Japanese heritage she remembered far away and the immediate tropics filling her senses.

The evening of this southern land
Their sad stories are sung by the natives to the strum of guitars

It's a gift that this view upstages that of the happy-go-lucky Hawaiians, giving them a right to their sadness for what they have lost. In their songs and music, it's true, Hawaiians find comfort in all that has been taken from them.

Congratulations to Kurenai's son and Petals of the Vanda Executive Editor Mansanori Hongo for the culmination of this project. Kurenai's love for her art brings happiness to us all and will live on with this book.

On days when the silvery delicate rain falls
My mind overflows with poems.


The following books are discounted for subscribers to our newsletter. The discounts on these books end February 3, 2005.

Petals of the Vanda

By Kurenai Tsuneko Hongo
2005, 122 pages, paperback.

AACP is proud to introduce our just published tanka poetry book. This is a wonderful book and we're all glad to have been a part of its creation.

If you haven't already read the above review check it out.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3271, Price $14.95


By Priscilla Lee
2000, 79 pages, paperback.

"Through Priscilla Lee's Wishbone, we enter a world both magical and harrowing, where the barracudas are melancholy and porcupines are kept as pets, a world in which a firing squad and America are a telegram apart. Seldom are we blessed with a first book as poignant and absorbing as this one is, as street-pure, as wise."
- Carolyn Forché

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3011, Price $12.50

Asian Arts & Crafts for Creative Kids

By Patricia Donegan
2003, 64 pages, hardback.

This book is a great introduction for young and old to the poetry form known as haiku. It explores the seven keys to writing haiku and provides instructions for five haiku projects, including creating haiga, or illustrated haiku.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3273, Price $9.95

Homing Pigeon

By Wooi-chin J-son
2001, 66 pages, paperback.

Wooi-chin J-son's poems are a marvelous bridge between his native Singapore and the United States...

The poetry of Homing Pigeon brilliantly pulls two worlds together until we understand both freshly and poignantly.
- Benjamin Saltman

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3272, Retailed Price $10.00

A Thousand Peaks
Poems from China

By Siyu Liu and Orel Protopopescu
2002, 52 pages, Hardback.

We are re-introducing this book as part of our special January poetry month newsletter. Don't miss this chance to pickup this great introductory book to the works of clasical Chinese poets.

View Additional Information
ORDER -- Item #3009, Price $19.95

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