Findings in fractions

Music Scores at the Seattle Central Public Library

Here’s a paradox to consider. I’ve got a lot to think about, so you’ll have to look past the academic scaffolding.

First premise: There are very few traces of my dad on the Internet.

You can Google “Taku Nimura,” or “Taku Frank Nimura,” and there isn’t very much connected to him, or who he was. I have active e-mail accounts, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a page… and as a new daughter of this digital age, it makes me sad that you can’t Google my dad*, for lack of a better term. You can’t find his obituary, the most stripped-down version of a life outline (except for the tombstone inscription), in online newspaper archives.

(Maybe I will create a Wikipedia page about him, but there’s still so much that I need to know. And one wonders: if what makes someone “historic” is debatable, what makes someone Wikipedia-page-worthy?)

And so I wonder about the countless individuals who do not have an online presence, even now; I wonder about the connection between the Internet and identity. I’m not saying that Google should be the only way to find out information, but it’s the first stop for so many, for so much. I wonder about the impact technology will have on my daughters, and the impact it’s had so far. I wonder about them finding out more about their grandfather, in an age where they can’t find him, through search engines that mark their findings in fractions of a second.

Second premise: And yet, Internet technology gave me these things:

1. Pictures I’d never seen before of my dad, from a long-lost friend of his on Facebook. “Are those his granddaughters I’m looking at in your profile picture?” she asks. And that’s a relationship I had not yet connected with my father: he would be a grandfather, my daughters would be his granddaughters.

2. A blog comment here, from someone who knew my dad—during a time when I know so little about his life. I’m not sure we would have found each other without the Internet. I’m so excited to find out more.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to realize this next thought, and my ten-year-old self would have resisted this, I’m sure. But here goes: my dad never belonged just to me, or just to my family. He also ventolin usa belonged to his friends, and other communities I’d never known or seen. The memoir that my sister and I are writing, then, may not be just a “dual” or “triple” memoir; it may also be something like a community memoir. I want to ask more people what they remember about him.

3. His Masters thesis in Public Administration and a bibliography that he wrote about Japanese in the United States. (Coming soon from Interlibrary loan, more Internet: cross your fingers!)

4. And this page from the California State Sacramento Library catalog, which makes me so happy. Taking my cue from my wonderful university reference librarians, I know that Google does not see everything. There is, however, a great deal of less-Google-able information, available from libraries.

5. A bookstore in Sacramento selling a poetry anthology; one of the poets is my dad.

Last part of the paradox: what does it mean?

Perhaps more obviously, search engines can erase (or obscure) an identity, but it can also restore an identity, in completely unexpected ways.

In the project I want to think more about what that means about humanity’s urges to record, document, remember. Google might not get me a quick answer about my dad, and I’m not sure I want it to do that, anyway. But I can still find him—or fractions of him—through these vast oceans of time and memory.

Despite our rapid technological changes, I think he would have loved our here and now. He wrote so many letters to friends and family. (My first copyediting job, by the way: proofreading those typewritten letters.) I think he’d have an active Facebook account, to share pictures of his granddaughters. And I can almost see him writing witty status updates. Like me, I think he’d share anecdotes about his family, menus of evening dinners, pictures from his travels.

Librarians, writers, readers: our human urge is to connect.

In the book I’ll be writing more about each of these artifacts. For now, I’m remembering that writing the book is one way to put my father’s presence back in the world.

The paradox rephrased: I’m writing both through, and despite, a technology and history that might otherwise erase my father.

*The dystopic novel I’m reading right now–set in the “not so distant future” describes such a person as “ITP” (Impossible To Preserve).

This picture says a lot about where, how, and why I’m traveling, taken at the Seattle Central Public Library:

On haunting and marginalia: why the private MFA?

It’s hard to think about ways to follow up on that first post, and I am tempted, already, to go back and make changes. Maybe I will, eventually. But first: onward, forward, upward, which is the way to travel if I want to commit to this blog seriously.

I have a PhD in English, rather than an MFA. I have thought about pursuing an MFA for a long time, or at least pursuing creative writing more seriously. There are a number of reasons that I won’t be able to do so, at least for now. I have looked at a few non-residential MFA programs, even one relatively close to where I live. These programs typically ask their students to commit to 10 days of residence at the beginning of each year (for about 2 years), and much of the remaining work is completed through correspondence, at home or off-campus. But I am not sure I can spend 10 days away from my family and my two adorable little girls, much less afford the tuition.

But, just for the sake of argument: If I did pursue an MFA, I would have had to choose a genre, I think. Poetry or creative nonfiction? I’ve got memories and attachments to each.

I remember writing one of my first poems about the color yellow, perhaps in second grade, with Mr. Daley. (I dated his grandson in high school!)
Mustard fields blossoming slowly
Flashing lightning

After watching the pine tree in the front of our house, I remember writing my first haiku in third or fourth grade, which my dad loved:
As the pine tree sways
Gently in the cool, swift breeze
I think it whispers

I wrote a lot of poetry through high school and college. In high school I kept a quote journal of quotations, bits, sayings from writings and writers that I loved. I wrote down spiral notebooks full of song lyrics, as many of us did. I’ve wondered if I wrote those down because I was too afraid to write my own poetry.

I began to write creative nonfiction, essays, at the end of college. Just after I graduated from college, I worked in campus administration. I had finished mid-year, and was applying to graduate schools. I was lucky enough to land a job in the same campus office where I’d worked as a student for two years.

During one lunch break I went to hear a former professor, Robert Hass, read from his work. At work I was steeped in the discourses of underground storage tanks and hazardous waste, and I fell promptly back in love (had I ever fallen out of it?) with poetry, with literary words. The next day I wrote an essay on my lunch break and submitted it to a contest; it won first place.

I wrote journals, diaries well into graduate school. I began to write and experiment ventolin 100 mcg online with artwork and color, joyfully, on September 10, 2001. I couldn’t journal or even open that book after that.

I also wrote a poem for my beloved graduate school advisor, about the memories we shared with each other about our fathers’ deathbeds. It’s called “Eating Grapes,” and I’ll have to find it someday. (I’m a hoarder; I suspect a great many writers are. )

Last year, on the spot, I wrote a poem for a colleague’s poetry blog.

These are some of the important moments of my intermittent writing life, at least to date. But when I think about becoming a writer, about writing this blog, the written word that’s haunting me today is a marginal comment from another college professor. When I was a sophomore, I took “Introduction to Poetry Writing” from the African American author Ishmael Reed. I didn’t really know who he was at the time, nor did I know that I would end up writing one of my dissertation chapters about him later on. I’ll have to find this poem and this piece of paper somewhere, too.

Here’s what he wrote:

“I think you could succeed as a writer. You have the talent, the skills, and the imagination.”

Best marginal comment, ever.

I am not writing these moments down to sound arrogant; they are more like the small squares of comfort I gather around myself as I think about stitching a new quilt of my writing life.

Now that I have had some years of teaching experience, I wonder what led him to write that comment. What does it take for a creative writing professor to write this on your student’s paper? Now I wonder what Professor Reed saw:
–if he knew the young girl who loved L.M.Montgomery’s Emily books, even more than the Anne books;
–if he knew that when I was thirteen I subscribed to an industry magazine, Writer’s Digest, “just to keep up”;
–if he could see those stacks of quote journals, the piles of partly-filled and empty journals, and the sheafs of poems, spilling out of my closets and desk drawers;
–if he knew just how desperately I wanted to be a writer.

I also wonder what he would say if he knew what I “grew up” to be. I wonder if I can unlearn, or need to unlearn, what I learned as an academic writer, as a critic, as a PhD.

And I don’t know if I will ever try to earn an MFA. But in the meantime, I’ll give myself assignments. Maybe I’ll ask from assignments from you reading out there, and I’ll work towards a larger project. Thanks in part to a new and dear friend, I pitched and got my first freelance writing assignment today!–which made me very happy. In the meantime, this is my own practice, my own private MFA.