Histories of loss and leaving

SKY COUNTRY

By Christine Kitano
(Rochester, N.Y.: BOA Editions Ltd., 2017, 104 pp., paperback)

Ithaca College professor Christine Kitano’s “Sky Country” is a thought-provoking collection of poems that speak to Kitano’s mixed Korean-Japanese background.

She organizes her book of poetry thematically into five sections each interwoven with the personal and collective histories of Korean and Japanese immigrants in the U.S.

She titles the book, “Sky Country,” after the Korean word “ha-neul nara,” which is translated as “heaven country.” This term was evoked by Korean immigrants who had arrived to the U.S. Throughout her collection, loss and leaving are tied to the collective experience of immigration across generations. Her first poem, “Leaving,” opens up the book describing leaving and fleeing and an “uprootedness” that so often defines the immigration experience. In section one, she beautifully uses her poetry to link intergenerationally, her mother and grandmothers’ worlds and her own world with snippets of memories told about the Korean War interwoven with her grandmother’s experiences adjusting to language and life in the U.S.

The second section focuses on memories of Japanese American immigration and incarceration. This section opens up with “Gaman” and it is beautifully written about the Angel Island experience, which many immigrants experienced. Another poem, “About the Trees,” is metaphorically told about incarceration at Topaz (central) Utah and the importance of remembrance. The book continues with the theme of  “leaving” and the discomforts and pains and living.  Finally, the fifth section focuses on living and light.

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