Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Mitsuye May Yamada Interview
Narrator: Mitsuye May Yamada
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 9 & 10, 2002
Densho ID: denshovh-ymitsuye-01-0033

MY: But as I said, so in the 1970s when I was thinking about publishing my writings, the way that the Camp Notes, my, the writings that I did in camp kind of came out of the shoebox was when I was in these writing groups, and you're working full-time and, "Oh my gosh, tonight is my poetry workshop, I don't have anything that I have prepared," and so you start going through your papers. I'd take out the blue shoebox and was going through the stuff that I wrote long time ago. And I remember kind of dredging that up and taking it to my poetry group and then kind of realizing that, they had no idea what I was talking -- I mean, I didn't explain what it was or anything. But I went to a weekend retreat that was being conducted by a New York poet by the name of Edward Field. And he is a very down-to-earth poet, one of the Beat poets from way back. He's a little bit younger than I am. He still lives in New York, he lives in New York City. And he, and I took my whole manuscript of Camp Notes. And at that time, I think when Alta said, you know, "I'd really like to publish these poems," and I looked at her and I said, "I don't really know if they're poems. I don't even know if they're good" -- you know, how can you tell? I remember asking her, "How could you tell that they were any good? How do you tell? How do you evaluate your own writing?" So when I heard that Edward Field, whose work I had admired for many years, was having a... conducting a workshop down by Ocean -- this little place in Oceanside, I applied and I went down there. And I spent the weekend there with him and many other poets, and he said to submit the manuscript to him beforehand and he would go over them and so forth. And he kind of handed mine back to me and he said, "This is incredible." And I go, "Really?" And that he -- and then he told the rest of the group that, you know, true poetry should come right out of the experience of one's life. And that really gave me a boost, to look at my poems in a kind of a new way.

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