This week, the spotlight is on Derek Otsuji and his poem, “Evening Visit,” published first in Green Hills Literary Lantern.
Q: What inspired you to write “Evening Visit”?
Growing up, my brothers and I would often visit my paternal grandparents on the farm where they worked and lived. The images of this poem come from my memories of those visits. My memory of my grandfather coming down from the farm fields at evening is the true germ of inspiration for this piece. Though he passed away over thirty years ago, that image of him is vivid in my mind’s eye to this day.
Q: How long did it take you to write it?
“Evening Visit” was written over a period of about two years. Originally, the poem was a much longer narrative piece of about fifty lines. I kept expanding the narrative until one day I realized the poem wanted to be a short lyric. I condensed the narrative and then whittled away until I was left with the fourteen lines that make up the poem’s final form. The poem loosely follows a sonnet structure with a “volta” or turn at line nine. But this final form was a happy accident rather than something I had planned from the outset. I guess you could say that in the process of composition and revision the poem discovered its true form.
A burning white bulb clouded with small moths
lighted the empty porch and empty chair.
We were expected. Halfway up the path
carved with feet through the cricket-seeded grass
leading to the solitary farmhouse,
we met our grandpa, come down from the fields,
pushing a battered wheelbarrow that creaked
with ball and socket of his failing hip.
He said no word because he’d none to say,
but, reaching down in that battered wheelbarrow,
pulled up a leafy turnip, round, smooth, white
—a plum, like stone, grown in the moon’s cold light.
It would be tossed into the pot of stew
Grandma would soon be simmering on the stove.
You can also read Derek’s poem in Green Hills Literary Lantern.
Gorgeous poem. You make it look so easy.
I absolutely love learning the background of a poet and their poem. Derek’s beautiful poem allowed me to have a vision of his past on the farm. Thanks for sharing!
“carved with feet through the cricket-seeded grass” — my favorite line. My response to the poem?…WOW!
It’s nice to see some multicultural writers represented! Keep up the good work Writers Relief!
“the battered wheelbarrow…creaked with ball and socket of his failing hip” is a poignant illustration of a hardworking man who worked the land, “carved” with his own feet to provide for his family, and the use of light in this is beautiful – what great work.
I love this poem, it’s beautiful. I always enjoy hearing that a poet lets a poem grow into itself, rather than forcing it into a predetermined mold. Kudos Derek!