Disillusion — Commentary
This poem is loosely based on the story of James Hatsuki Wakasa, a Japanese internee who was shot by a guard at an internee camp in Topaz, Utah on April 11, 1943, because he was supposedly “escaping.” In reality, he was behind the fence the whole time, and thus shot for reason at all. Wakasa’s story was one of the more egregious examples of blatant racism and racial profiling that I came across in my research. In this conversation poem I wanted to explore the differences between what the U.S, government said they were doing to the Japanese-Americans, and the true reality that the Japanese-Americans faced in not having a voice to speak out in the camps.
This poem also works to move our overall narrative structure along, as a portion of the top left stanza is the official language that the government used to tell the Japanese-Americans of their fate. However, I didn’t really think the official government language was conducive to poetry, so I combined it with a more lyrical approach to get more emotion in the piece. This poem is mostly based on Wakasa’s story, but does not mention him by name so as to encompass the injustices of all the internees; Wakasa’s story or similar stories of reality distortion and disillusion could be the story of any internee who was racially profiled or exploited at this time.
I wrote a bunch of drafts for this poem, some general and some more specific to Wakasa’s story, before finally settling on this version of “Disillusion.” I struggled with developing both voices and giving them equal say in the matter, instead of writing purely from the viewpoint of someone who thinks that racially profiling is wrong. Similar to the other poems, I had to find the right balance between incorporating facts and raw emotion, and seeing how these elements differed depending on the “speaker” on each side of the poem.