By PETER LEVITT
Amy Uyematsu, who I called Amy-chan because she was my dear student, friend, and true sister for four decades, passed on two nights ago (June 23) after showing the courage and love she was known for as a poet, a woman, a mother, a wife, a compelling, formative, and clear-seeing insightful and affirmatively inciteful voice of the Asian American community and movement, and all movements for equality.
Amy empowered her community to always keep their eyes and pride on the prize, going way way back. And yet, as fierce as her truth-telling, her heart was most tender, indeed. So many walks, so many talks, so many walking talks after dinner on Sawtelle. We shared so much.
But she is out of terrible pain now after a final cancer took her, and as much as I will miss my sister in my active life, I am relieved for her. Sometimes we just must admit, enough is too much. That’s the kind of love we have.
“Thirty Miles from J-Town”
“Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain”
“The Yellow Door”
“Stone Bow Prayer”
“That Blue Trickster Time”
You can read her and I hope you will. I have written a few endorsements for her poetry books over the years, and each time I mean every syllable of every word. Here is the last one:
In “That Blue Trickster Time,” Amy Uyematsu puts it all on the line, powerfully giving voice to the great matters of life and death as she’s lived them, while never ignoring the sacred “radiance of the ordinary,” the nuanced beauty she finds, rooted in her unstinting commitment to truth.
Her many loves of this world, her losses and joys, the pain of racism and her life-long opposition to the human cost of its injustice, her full embrace of her family heritage, a terminal diagnosis; these are poems that come from a place of deep listening, clear seeing; Uyematsu never fails to find the grace of life itself with what she generously calls “our wide shining eyes.”
With the poet’s talented, compassionate and discerning touch, these poems may well out-trick the trickster with a kiss that lasts forever.
O yasumi nasai, Amy-chan. O yasumi nasai.
Peter Levitt is a poet and translator. He is also the founder and teacher of the Salt Spring Zen Circle, in the Soto Zen lineage of Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi.