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The Japanese American communities in Oregon and southern Washington were relatively small and many of the detainees knew each other; they drew on existing family and community networks to help each other through the long summer, living in inhumane conditions under the constant threat of violence. Several members of Bara Ginsha, a Portland poetry group, decided to continue their work while imprisoned at the center, primarily by writing senryū, a type of Japanese poetry related to haiku.
They Never Asked is a collection of work produced by Bara Ginsha members in the WCCA camp, based on a journal kept by Masaki Kinoshita. The senryū collected here were written by a group of twenty-two poets, who produced hundreds of poems. Individually, the poems reflect the thoughts and feelings the authors experienced while being detained in the center; collectively, they reflect the resilience and resistance of a community denied freedom. Editors Shelley Baker-Gard, Michael Freiling, and Satsuki Takikawa present translations of the poems alongside the originals, supplemented by historical and literary context and a foreword by Duane Watari, Masaki Kinoshita’s grandson.