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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
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Joyce Futa, Lit Windows: A Book of Haibun and Tanka Prose, A Review by Patricia Prime

Joyce Futa, Lit Windows: A Book of Haibun and Tanka Prose, San Francisco: Blue Light Press. (2017). RRP: $15.95 Pb, 55pp. ISBN: 978-1-4218-3772-7. Reviewed by Patricia Prime.

Joyce Futa has lived in California for the past four years, after living in San Francisco for 50 years. Lit Windows is her first book of poetry. The book opens with the tanka prose “Synchronicity”, in which the poet dreams:

I was in San Francisco again, looking out the bay window at the apartment across the street where we once lived, where our friends now live. I thought how nice to be back and to be in Altadena, the best of two possible worlds. (1)

This is Futa’s first book, and among the serious issues, it is filled with an almost childlike playfulness, as we see in “Altadena Soup”:

Each flavor and texture reminded us of childhood, aunties cooking and laughing together, golden afternoons of nothing but play, when everything new was in the air and blowing our way. (3)

Futa tackles the more serious of her subjects with the biggest questions, as we see in Immigrants”. In the beginning, it was hard for Futa and her husband to work the farm in the hot desert, but they persevered. Although she was homesick, there was never any question of her leaving her husband, and it was here, years later, that her grandchild was born:

But you were born there, my first grandchild. I felt such joy holding you, hummed Japanese songs, played peek-a-boo. (5)

It helps having a mind able to explain the unexplainable with the flick of a metaphorical wrist. In “Sisters”, for example, she neatly summarises the love and the jealousy that often occurs between sisters:

The days were long. We snapped at each other until we finally lay down to sleep. In that small moonlit bedroom, forgiveness was only a dream. (9)

Futa writes with such friendliness it is impossible to be intimidated. The impression is of a kind, funny, imaginative woman, reinforced by the poignancy of being an immigrant. In “Poston, Arizona, 1985”, for instance, she writes about he Indian people, who were worse off than themselves:

After we left in 1945, the Indians came to upgrade their housing. The empty barracks were better than what they had. (14)

Nowhere are Futa’s combinations of place, family and friends more evident than in “Point Reyes”. Here, she says:

I used to walk those trails above the ocean almost every Sunday with Maggie and Anita, sometimes with John and others, all of whom I lost to diverging lives.

The scene setting includes the “albino deer” which “grazed on the hillside, gleaming like ghosts in the rosy twilight.” (17).

In “Enchanted Cottage” – a house which “seemed to float, aloft in blossoms”, we meet the child Ruth, adopted by her grandmother. The house does seem enchanted with its back yard, rabbit in a hutch and garden veggies prepared for dinner, followed by talk and laughter.

In “Transport”, Futa references novels and movies, but says:

“I never confuse those lives with my own which I plan daily for a regimen of exercise, entertainment, getting together with friends, and a little creativity.” (33).

What most impressed me about this tanka prose is that she writes of not wanting a lover, but another friend like her friend Anne – “She was like a novel, a film, a song.” Anne is also referred to in “Spirit Horse” (43), but “Now, she too is gone, away to the ethers.” Futa’s poem makes one tearful, but it has courage and grace.

Lastly, the poem “Man with Cockatoo” (53), in which she writes:

If I were dreaming, I would talk to the man who often walks up my street with a white cockatoo on his leather-bound arm. The man looks ascetic, small and lean, a bit like my father in an alternate universe, without wife or children.

Overall, this is a strong collection with much to offer the reader. It demonstrates Futa’s emotions and experiences with clarity and thoughtfulness.

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