A Poet's Story

Kerri Lyn Kumasaka
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A Poet's Story by Kerri Lyn Kumasaka

For the poet within every one of us


Written in a style similar to the traditional Japanese literary form of haibun, A Poet’s Story  combines poetry and prose.  The book is a poetic memoir which contains poems and stories around the poems.  It is the author’s attempt to share her love of poetry with others and to encourage and inspire them to express their own  poetry.

As the author writes in the “Dear Reader” part of A Poet’s Story:  I believe that everyone is a poet and that everyone has poetry stirring around inside of them.  It is to this poet within you that I tell my story.  I hope this book will encourage and inspire you to acknowledge, affirm and develop your own poet self. 

This is a plea for you to write and live your poems whether it is by capturing them on paper, growing them in your garden, painting them on canvas or in the way you love and care for your children.  Please, World, write your poems.


Excerpts from A Poet’s Story


The book is divided into four sections: 
Creativity, On Pain and Growth,
Love and Love and Love, and Yes! 
Here are excerpts from each of the sections...




When the Muse Calls

When the Muse  calls, you’d
better go, you’d better listen. You’d
better clear away your life and follow
her. Though you may be
filled with terror, doubt and
grief, you’d better go. You’d

For she will take you by
the hand and lead you
skipping into worlds like you
have never seen. Into dimensions
you have never tasted. Sweeter
than cotton candy, more putrid than
a skunk’s protective odor. She’ll
cradle you in her arms and sing
you lullabies of truth. Then she’ll
fling you in the

She will take you through
the mud and sand and
sludge of swamps and fields
and deserts. Then she’ll
bathe you in translucent
lakes and lazy rivers.

You may shake your fist at
the sky. Your tears may fall
down into the soil. You may
ask, “Why, why, why?” But close
your eyes and go with her. Close your
eyes and follow. And one day you
will realize that she has simply
taken you on a journey
to yourself.



This poem was published in a program for the Montana Artist's Refuge in Basin, Montana. Every year, the Refuge has a jazz brunch as a fundraiser and one year my friend, Nan, asked if they could put one of my poems in the program since the theme of the brunch was "The Word."

I was out of town when they had the brunch. And when I returned, another friend, Carolyn, came up to me and said she had seen my poem in the program and that it totally changed her life. She said she had pinned it up on her bathroom wall and was reading it every day. She had quit her job at the gold mine where she worked as an assayer and decided she would do massage (her passion) full time.

"Oh, no," I thought to myself, "she was making good money at that mine and what happens if this massage thing doesn't work out?" I started to feel responsible for her decision. I told her how I was feeling, and we joked about how I might have to put a disclaimer with the poem saying I was not responsible for people choosing to leave their jobs to follow their creativity. When I see Carolyn, I often ask her, a bit anxiously, how her massage practice is going.



On Pain and Growth


My maternal grandmother, Amy Matsuoka, died over 15 years ago.  I loved her and was very close to her.  A few years ago, I still had a lot of pain in my heart about her death.  One day, I was coming out of the sweat lodge and George who was leading the sweat said, “You see that moon?  That is your grandmother.”


After the Sweat

After the sweat one night
You told me that the moon
was my grandmother.

What a gift this was for me.
For we had buried her almost
ten years ago and my heart
still hurt whenever anyone
said her name.

I had a dream once that I
saw her at a dinner
at our church.  My heart
leapt to see her again.
I was hugging her and holding
her hand.  Yet when it came to sitting
down we couldn’t sit at the same
table since I was of the
living and she, the other side.
I was crying in my sleep and
in my dream.  My wet pillow
beneath my cheek.

And now most
nights I only need to sit
under the night sky to talk
with her and be
with her.  My grandmother, who is
the moon. 



Love and Love and Love


Once when I was around five years old, I heard Grandma Kumasaka say to my dad that she didn’t want to babysit us kids.  I was hurt and angry, and I hated her for a long time.  After I went to Japan, I was better able to communicate with her and made peace with her on some level.  By the time she died, I felt a lot of love for her and enjoyed listening to her stories.  Toward the end of her life, her memory was not so good and she would repeat herself.  The way she talked was a poem.  My cousin, Janet, had shared with me about a Malaysian form of poetry called pantoums where certain lines in one stanza are repeated in the following stanza in a prestcribed order.  For me, the way Grandma talked was like a pantoum.

Looking at the Iris

(A pantoum)

We sit there looking at the iris.
What is it that called? I ask her in Japanese.
That purple flower there is ayame.
I am 94 years old. I have no friends, she says.

What is that called? I ask her in Japanese.
Taikutsu, boring. I do the same things every day.
I am 94 years old. I have no friends, she says.
They have all died and I'm not much of a talker.

Taikutsu, boring. I do the same things every day.
Watch TV, read, I don't garden anymore.
They have all died and I'm not much of a talker.
Hard to make new friends when you're 94.

Watch TV, read, I don't garden anymore.
I used to grow flowers: bara, kiku, ayame.*
Hard to make new friends when you're 94.
Especially when you're shy like me.

I used to grow flowers: bara, kiku, ayame.
That purple flower there is ayame.
Especially when you're shy like me.
We sit there looking at the iris.


*roses, chrysanthemum, iris


While Mending A Sock

So much of what we say
is unnecessary. Smooth and creamy
silence evades us as we
chatter on to fill
the waves. He said
goodbye long before the
words ever left his mouth. And
this sock does not say, "I'm
sorry I am falling apart."

We sit and walk in stillness,
yet all is understood. The
purple green grasses grow
wordlessly. the rocks and
mountains are without
a speech. And language is so
inadequate to describe the
fourth dimension within.

If I could, I would live
my life by one word
only: Yes!


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