Mitsuye Yamada


A poet , Mitsuye Yamada is the author of Camp Notes and Other Writings. An educator, Mitsuye teaches Asian American Studies at UC Irvine, and has led the way for Asian American feminists. She met Marilyn through her brother, Rev. Michael Yasutake, founder of Interfaith Prisoners of Conscience, and has visited and corresponded with her since the 1980s.

On the CD, Mitsuye reads her poem, "Neutralize!" (below), which she also read at the Bay Area release party for Wild Poppies.

Her collections of poetry, Xxxxxx, can be found at your local book store or on the web at ABE Books or other online booksellers. As an overview of her life as an artist and activist, she published Teaching Human Rights Awareness Through Poetry in 1999.

Mitsuye is profiled in Voices from the Gaps. and the Literary Encyclopedia.


Mitsuye Yamada

poetry . . .
has been my spiritual guide
throughout my incarceration
in the darkest of times
I turn to Neruda and Hikmet
and Rukeyser and Ritsas
and Chrytos
and Whitman. . .

           – U.S. Political Prisoner

They mean to kill
the sentient being in me

White white
no poetry in
white floors walls ceiling white
white chairs tables sink white
only when I close my eyes do I see
beyond the white windowless walls
remembering springtime of
lacy trees lightly green against baby blue.

There is silence silence more silence
to drown out the incessant silence
I fill my inner ear with robinsongs
melodious and soothing
but how to quell deafening
nonhuman screeches and scrapes
sounds bouncing against the white walls?

Dull smells of dead air in the cell
but through the olfactory nerves
in my mind
I can tickle with the zest of lemon
and the sweetness of wildflowers.

Willfully bland diet aimed
to erase use of my tongue
Add a pinch of salt with the taste
of sweat or even of blood
anywhere on my body
Remembering the taste of cheese.

One human touch allowed
my own arms enfold me
my fingers move over my sagging breasts
my nipples and soft parts of my body

They mean to neutralize me but
poetry keeps me alive.


© 1996 Mitsuye Yamada

Poems © by the author; compilation © The Freedom Archives
ISBN 0-9727422-4-7