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It’s day two of National Poetry Month 2015. And today’s post features an interviewee from Japan. So let’s gather together and read what Melissa Uchiyama has to say about poetry:

What was the first poem you’ve ever read?
Does your House Have Lions, by Sonia Sanchez. That’s not the first, but she is the first whose poetry really stirred me.

How has poetry influenced you as a person? Or as a writer? 
Poetry has shown me the power of asserting my voice, for recognizing myself in stanzas, for making it okay to celebrate and examine all of the emotion in being human. Poetry has helped me teach young writers and readers to really hear and appreciate language. It helps me also in teaching them and celebrating each child’s unique voice.

In your opinion, what makes a poorly written poem? 
A poorly-written poem stays on the surface, often using cliches and general feelings and words, vs. the practice of SHOWING US and getting specific.

How would you persuade a non reader to read poetry? 
I’d utilize music, organic rhythms in daily life, looking at seasons, looking at a short story that is poetically written, like the short story, Eleven, by Sandra Cisneros.

Is poetry useful? 
YES! A resounding yes. This is our connection to something greater! To God, to humanity, courage, and empathy. Poetry encapsulates life in word-form.

Bonus Melissa also shares with us today a poem she wrote:
A Sign on the Road

Florida be just itchin’
(pink with Calamine)
to welcome me,
flags raised, quarters ready for the toll.
More than cherry red Targets,
More than bagels & lox, guava,
and Reggae circles of drum beats.

Oh, it wants to spool out
Spool out
its Spanish moss ficus sunrise
and have my thin legs slog and slosh

or at least sit.

Just sit by the water,
Sit a bit on knockabout, ol’ time rusty chairs
bread balls in hand to throw at fish
and teeny turtle heads anxious in quicksand puddles,
languid in lakes, bobbing.
Bitty crabs scramble over roots.

That’s Florida’s chime–
“Find water; go to it with a glass in hand,
binoculars, your eyes.
Ready for a pool, a canal, some hidden fort house tunnel–

you even know the backs of leaves,
dock of splinters hanging over water,
seaweeds caught on a plastic bottle.

Get to that dead end road block
Behind that cul de sac,
Quick quick
throw the bike down and launch yourself
at water

swinging rope with the knot
you used to babysit
all summer
that thunder.

The grass bed’s growing higher,
resisting the mower.
It wants more water.

Find water, find me
with an egret at the end of his development,
in the Venetian bricks at Viscaya,
in Audubon books, pages folded over.
Excavate gently, you who know
that which has not yet been culled,
forced out
non native berries, that virus on orange trees.
Whole groves gone. Seeds plundered.
Just find water and leave the rest to me.

Fifth grade:
Memories canoeing
back and forth laughter,
an alligator long and drawn
now on the grass,
sliding off into Jamies’ lake.
Plop. Watch. Paddle.

A simple boat holding your best friends and baby sister,
you Florida girls
life without vests
or anything beyond a slim wooden oar,
white shoes slide off
into ribbons of grass,
fling off in cartwheel and cheers.

Freckles spread more
ginger, white orchids, bromeliads,
knobby wooden Cypress knees,
Elephant leaves, enveloping your head
with the Loxahatchee,
Morikami’s pineapples
and that sweet sweet fry bread.

Southernmost Point’s best at sunset,
silly disarming girls takin’ a break from their cruise
and suntanned guys getting high on mopeds.
“You know all the words to Kokomo.”
Biscayne Bay, Café Cubana its heart.

Almost fall off of cigarette boats so many times.

Forever sweaty summers
brush off their sand
in your ears now, your scalp,
on the floor of your first car with the great smoke pouring
and pedal to the floor.
You wait for that next wave, crouch for that next set,
clean out your suit,
sometime get around to vacuuming floorboards.

Water, gardenia, birdsongs
walk to the bus stop
where you first learned to
imitate any pitch. 

Sing out, o puddles, even you vapor.
Come now and  find me.
© Melissa Uchiyama, 2014

Melissa Uchiyama lives and writes in Tokyo, with her husband, two kiddos, and hotdog dogs. She is a literacy specialist, working in the Japanese and international communities, helping children and young adults to cultivate and hone their reading and writing skills and voice. Melissa blogs at And you can also find her at:
Facebook: Melissa Uchiyama Facebook,
Twitter: @melibelletokyo
Melissa Uchiyama Instagram

30 Days of Poetry Love with Melissa Uchiyama

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