Comment on this article


A Cold Wind from Idaho

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, resulting in a cataclysmic series of events affecting all persons of Japanese ancestry then residing on the West Coast of the United States. So calamitous were these actions that a noted scholar asserted that this action constitutes “the defining event in the history of Japanese Americans.”
What does this have to do with a book of poetry titled  A Cold Wind from Idaho? Those Americans familiar with the Pacific Northwest Japanese American World War II experience will understand the imagery wrought by the title as being both evocative and apt. The metaphor of freezing winter winds chilling the body and then entering the soul of those affected conveys fittingly how the Japanese Issei and Japanese American Nisei encountered, braved, and then survived the cold iciness of Idaho’s winters while they were huddled in a primitive American barbed wire concentration camp.
  -- From the introduction by Tetsuden Kashima

About the Author
Larry Matsuda was born in the Minidoka, Idaho War Relocation Center during World War II.  He and his family along with 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans were held in ten concentration camps without a crime and without due process for approximately three years. His poems appear in Poets Against the War website, The Raven Chronicles, New Orleans Review, Floating Bridge Press, Cerise Press and the International Examiner Newspaper. He lives with his wife, Karen, and son, Matthew in Seattle, Washington and is a consultant presently helping to re-design schools as better physical learning environments. He was a junior high language arts teacher and Seattle School District administrator and principal for twenty-seven years.

Private First Class Harry
by Larry Matsuda

Ba-chan unraveled her blue sweater  
as if possessed.  
Ripped and salvaged yarn  
to knit a hara maki,  
wool wrap for her son Harry  
before he shipped out to Italy.  
Todd, her first son, volunteered.  
Snipers at Bruyeres killed him  
before she could finish his.  
Knitting needles clacked furiously,  
not a missed stitch or hole  
for a bullet to find.  
Yarn absorbed a tear, a mother’s hope—  
transformed wool into  
a shield like chain mail.  This  
warm wrap, a mother’s  
protective surround.   
Each stitch was a loop in a paper chain,  
an umbilical cord that stretched to her son  
six thousand miles away.
 Unable to write English,  
she knitted her love into blue wool,  
her scent into a package of blue—  
to touch her son once more.



"Just as Elie Wiesel spoke for the survivors of the Holocaust, Dr. Matsuda in simple, elegant, and heartbreaking poetry gives voice to the silent generations. I hope this beautiful work finds wide readership, so we can heal the wounds of injustice and all say, ‘Never again.’”   
-- Barry Grosskopf, MD
"A Cold Wind from Idaho is the logical next step for Matsuda in his evolution from a community activist to a writer pursuing social justice issues. Because of my internment experience during World War II, the poems brought back memories and gave me another perspective to better understand the tragedy of the Japanese internment."  
-- Mary Matsuda Gruenwald
"Some pains take lifetimes to assuage.  Matsuda’s poems break for us all the Japanese-American code of silence (gaman) toward the indignities of the nine U. S. government-mandated internment camps of WWII like Minidoka in Idaho where Matsuda was born.  He not only educates us in the specifics of the suffering of this time, but also brings us into the transgenerational implications of it, connecting this shameful period to both the war in Iraq and the bombing of Hiroshima where one of his relatives survived near ground zero.  We have had an appointment with this book for a long time. I’d say it’s an American necessity to read it . . . I could not put the book down.  It’s why I love poetry: its power to change hearts and to educate our souls."   
-- Tess Gallagher



Published by: Black Lawrence Press

ISBN 978-0-9826364-0-4

Price: $14.00


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]