Friday, April 24, 2015

I Don't Know What Was So Great About It.

Great Tenmei Famine, 1782-1788

I was sold after the locusts came.
I haven't been hungry since. This time
They blame the volcanoes, they blame
The leaders, they blame the priests,
Then they blame us. But they still come
Here and buy food. We arrange the dishes
So it looks like they're getting more
Than they really are. Everyone here
Knows that trick, same as we know
Everyone wants most what they can't get.
We're not too bad off, here
Behind the moat, not yet anyhow.
Soon enough, he says, they'll come down
Like a hammer on a nut. But today,
If the sun never shines, how am I
To miss it, shut up here? I do
Feel the cold. No one can warm me.
The men grow food in the small plots
Of ground given them. He brings melons
To feed the new young girls.

The prompt was to write a poem about a historical event.

Samurai were so badly paid that they had little gardens so they could grow enough food. They were kind of like the Walmart employees of feudal Japan.

The famine was thought to have been touched off by a series of volcanic explosions that caused a series of cold summers. This article has an interesting look at the worldwide Little Ice Age and points out that there was a relief food system in Japan for the starving.

Most women who worked in the Yoshiwara had been sold at around 8 or 10. Many felt it beat the alternative.

Today's judge is North Carolina's Kathryn Stripling Byer. I'm still so amazed that Writer's Digest got so many noted poets to read what has amounted to thousands of poems a day.

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