Comparing Ben Bertram’s [Response] and Kogawa’s Road Building by Pick Axe is an interesting exercise due to . There are two primary points of comparison : First, why did each author choose to use the form of poetry that they did, haiku for Bertram and blank verse for Kogawa; Secondly, what using that form of poetry accomplished for their poem. The reason that these poems should be read together is because Bertram raises several important questions about Kogawa’s writing that will help you to better understand Kogawa’s message.
The reason Bertram has chosen to write in haiku is quite simple: To prove that you can write in haiku and still get your message across. Bertram is questioning what seems to him to be an implicit contradiction in Kogawa’s Road Building by Pick-axe,“If you blame them so why adopt the form that they used to take everything” (Bertram, 10-12). He wants to know why Kogawa, in a poem about the loss of her Japanese heritage and the lack of respect for her culture the Canadian government showed, wrote in what Bertram sees as Canadian forms rather than Japanese ones. To prove to Kogawa that you can write in haiku and still get your message across, Bertram wrote his poem in it.
So why did Kogawa choose to write her poem in using traditional English forms? There are two main reasons. The first reason is exemplified by her line “my British British Columbia” (Kogawa, May 3 1981, 12-13), emphasis added. That sentence, the idea that that British Columbia is British and the Japanese Canadians do not matter, is Kogawa’s grievance concisely. Road Building is not a poem lamenting the loss of the past, but pointing out the ignorance of the British Canadians who put “Western Canada hatred due to racism” (9-10) as a newspaper headline thirty years later, as if they were just figuring it out. She has written it in English because her poem is trying to bring the ignorance of the English people to the spotlight and try to get them to fix it. She uses English and uses the traditional Western poetic form because, as she has already established, her audience is ignorant and she is trying to educate them. Using forms that they were unfamiliar with would just make it harder to get her message across. The second reason Kogawa chose to write what she did in that way is because she is a Japanese-Canadian. The hyphen is important; Kogawa was born in Vancouver, and she is just as much Canadian as she is Japanese. She uses traditional Western forms because they are very much her forms, not the forms of the culture of her descent but the forms of the culture in which she was born and raised. Attempting to separate the two is exactly what the people who forced her out of her home into an internment camp did.
The haiku is not a form from Bertram’s culture, however, and using forms that you are unfamiliar with always carries the risk of using them incorrectly. In order for a poem to be a haiku it must meet three...