Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strong as Silk The story of the Gold Hill Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Colony by Brigit Truex

Strong as Silk
The story of the Gold Hill
Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Colony
Prose & Poems
Brigit Truex
Lummox Press 2012

Review by Irene Koronas
Truex juxtaposes her small poems next to journal entries by Lady Jou, 1869-71:

"One last leaf remains,
turning, spinning east, then west.
Wind carries it off"

And from the journals of two other residents of the colony. Truex weaves, steeps the leaves then presses the stories between the pages. The settlers form a tea colony in California after coming from Japan. The history of the colony is in the back of the book and is as interesting as the prose and poetry. The people within the book migrate to California to make a profit from silk and tea trade. The book poetically informs all our senses; each journal page reveals the expectations and the loss felt by the settlers:

"...Last night, as we settled into our rooms, I found a book. Whoever
lived here before - the Graners, perhaps - must have dropped it.
Inside, a tiny lotus - until it fluttered away! The petals were splayed
wings of a small green moth. Surely it whispered blessings as it
circled overhead. I send prayers for us and our venture in this new place."

It is the story of beginnings and separations. It is how the poet relates to the journal entries:

"Hanging upside - down,
small bird robed in black scholar's cap -
our worlds are reversed"

The writing is magnificent, a blend of the past and present. We readers are able to discern
the subtle differences between the then and the now, the land and purpose of being, all
from the journal, 1874 and the recent poems:

"The moon was so full of itself, it echoed like
a bronze cymbal. It drowned out all other sounds.
Even the owl was silenced, still as the mouse
he pursues. He too was in awe of the night.

Far away, I heard the miners' music. It is difficult
to enjoy. I do not understand it. There are too many
sounds at once.

The light drew two moths as well. They danced in the darkness,
performing for the empress-moon. Mirroring each other, spiraling,
separating, only to return again. I am reminded of cherry
blossoms, released from the branch, drifting down when
no one is there to watch them fall."

The above journal entry takes my breath away and I can feel the longing for and the love of being where she is. She is nineteen years old and does not live much longer. Truex writes her poem next to the entry:

"Etched on still-black lake of sky,
porcelain petals
flutter to the moon."

Wow. Don't miss this book. Buy it and keep it and pass it to your children.
Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor:
Wilderness House Literary Review 
Ibbetson Street Press

1 comment:

  1. I love that "black scholar's cap" image for the bird....