by Tammy Takahashi

Paperback | 156 pages | 5 x 8 inches
PB ISBN 978-0-9989766-6-2
Kindle Print Replica
Ebook ISBN 978-0-9989766-8-6
Nature | Contemporary Poetry | Women Poets

The poems of Land explore our bodies and selves as terrain to be navigated, accepted and loved. Where estrangement meets intimacy, where lost youth meets the inevitability of aging, where fear meets hope, where doubt meets empowerment, where the natural world and the elements as our precious teachers meet our readiness to dive right into our lives—these are the intersections that lie at the heart of this collection, which uncovers a great paradox of our times: adrift, we long to feel truly, completely at home, while knowing deep within that there’s nowhere else we can be; we are already there, exactly where we are.

About the Author

Tammy Takahashi is a writer, poet, photographer, and student of life. Her short stories and poems have been widely published and anthologized and she has worked on several anthologies as co-editor. Her published works include a book of photography, Tag it! Toronto: A City’s Imagination Revolution (2009), and the poetry collections Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again (2015) and Little Poems for Big Seasons (2016). She is based in Canada and Japan.

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Q & A with Tammy Takahashi

Q. What inspired the title of your poetry book? Why LAND?

A. The title came to me immediately, which is not usually the case with me! As a long-time traveller/wanderer and someone currently living in two different countries on opposite sides of the world, I am really drawn toward the concept of “land” as both geographical territory and a metaphorical, metaphysical, emotional, and spiritual space: a space of empowerment and belonging the poems in this collection explore.

To land, as I feel it, is to touch down, to arrive, to find a new place of settlement, if only for a while: to get back “home.” Home is such a lovely word, isn’t it? It is the object of our most comforting dreams and hopes, a place we nostalgically yearn for and can find over and over again, every time we are truly at peace with exactly who and where we are any given moment: in every moment of now we experience.

Q. What can you tell us about the art on the book cover?

A. Thanks for asking! As soon as the title came to me, I instantly thought of home and the heart, together, in synchronization with the word “land.” If to land is to come home, then it also to feel absolute, perfect love. Since I really enjoy making hand-sewn artworks, I knew I wanted to pour my own heart and soul into creating a human heart for the cover, in the colours of our Mama Earth. Alice at Golden Dragonfly Press did a brilliant job of turning it, and my vision for it, into a beautiful book cover!

Q. The Western view of Nature emphasizes man over nature and nature as a resource to be used and exploited. Your poems reflect the opposite. In your poem “Surge” for example, we can find powerful images of a woman as a lioness and also as a mountain, a woman becoming nature as a way to survive. In the last poem of the book “See,” Nature is the guide in life, and you accept to follow that path. What factors and life experiences influenced your profound views on Identity and Nature?

A. What a great question, thank you. I would say that for a good portion of my life, I was very much focused on the intellectual, rational side of things, hardly even aware I had a body, if you can believe it! I’ve always loved being in nature, but these experiences still seemed somehow special, or apart – remote from my “real” life. About a decade ago, after I had a bit of a mid-life reckoning, we can call it, I felt deep within that there was something backward about the way I was conceiving who I was and how I was living. To make a long story short, I moved across the world, started a yoga and meditation practice, and essentially began the process of discovering who and what I truly am. Finding and acknowledging this deep relationship first with my body and heart, and then its/my intimate relationship with our tremendous, majestic natural world, realizing that our spirit, our evolution, our healing, our joy comes in such large part from a pure and invested relationship with our beautiful planet… it has been a blessing!

Q. And what about the sense of Place in your poems? What does it mean to feel at Home?

A. I’ve always loved travel, not only the excitement of being in new places and observing different cultures and ways of life, but the way travel is a deep metaphor for our lives as a whole. Every single day, we are changing, adapting, undergoing experiences that impact us in small or deep ways. Nothing ever stays the same. When we travel, the same thing is happening, perhaps in a more extreme form. If we can be very conscious of this, we can learn how to develop an inner sense of peace, our true home, as a space within all the turmoil. Because at the end of the day, as I’ve mentioned, I believe we are all searching for home, to feel harmony between our deep selves and the world around us. This is spiritual work, but it absolutely, 100% rooted within our material, physical and geographical environments. I’ve loved exploring this self-in-the-natural-world with these poems.

Q. In your biographical note, you mention that you are Canadian but have lived in Japan for a while. Would you like to share with us one special, significant experience about living in Japan?

A. Many people know that Japan has a deep reverence for Nature and to the particularities of the four distinct seasons. I never quite understood how true this is until I moved there. As a small island country often subject to Nature’s more extreme manifestations, (everyone remembers the horrific earthquake and tsunami of 2011), Japan is very much aware of the transient nature of existence and the human experience, and this affects everything from the kind of housing that is built to the refined sense of profound respect for the awesome power of nature. The cuisine, for example, is still very much influenced by local, seasonal ingredients, and people enjoy traveling to the various prefectures of the country to sample local specialties that have been carefully cultivated and passed down for centuries (I need a much more refined palate to truly appreciate all of these!) I have been deeply affected by the quiet, sincere and gentle manner of the people in themselves and in their relationship with their natural environment.

Q. There is a strong spiritual theme beautifully interwoven in this book, would you like to share with us about your spiritual and/or religious background?

A. The poems in this book reflect a spiritual journey I have been on for a number of years, though in many ways it feels like a “coming home,” if you will, to when I was a child and had a natural and uninhibited sense of wonder, scampering up trees, smelling the grass after rain, delighting in thunderstorms as I secretly read under the covers past bedtime. I think it was ultimately this sense of wonder that I’d largely lost for some time that compelled me to embark on my journey of self-(re)discovery, if you will. I’m lucky to have found brilliant teachers who are constantly guiding me while encouraging me to use my intuition as the journey unfolds. I find myself especially drawn to the spiritual paths of Yoga and Buddhism.

Q. Of all the poems in your book, do you have a favorite and why?

A. I think if I had to pick one, I’d pick Grow, an excerpt of which is on the back cover of the book. In many ways, it encapsulates one of the main themes of this book, which is that the whole universe is inside of us. Some of us might focus on the “good” without delving into the shadow side, and others may harp on the “bad” to detrimental effect, but the truth is that we are a glorious combination of light and dark, mysterious and transparent, of memory and experience and biology and spirit. And we are constantly growing, evolving. We are magic. We are a cosmic and yet earthly wonder awaiting our own discovery!

Q. If you could spend a day as anyone besides yourself, who would it be and why?

A. I’m tempted to choose any number of my most favourite writers and contemporary-historical figures, like H. H. the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Palmo, Pema Chödrön, Jack Kerouac, John Lennon, Stephen Levine, Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver… it’s hard to even scratch the surface! I’m also tempted to choose my paternal grandmother, because we were so close, but I also feel I never got to really got to know her outside of her grandmotherly role, and I’d love to see the world through her eyes and heart. But at the end of the day, to be honest, I’d want to spend a day with someone that has been randomly selected. We are all incredible, and there are endless depths to all of us. If I could, I’d want to know what it was like to be each and every one of us. Imagine how quickly we’d learn compassion if we could do this!

Q. Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals and tips?

A. I do write every single day. Lately, I’ve been writing close to a poem a day that I write and post on Facebook, usually early in the morning, and this helps me fuel my creativity and also gauge my mood or energy in that moment. It really grounds me. I also journal religiously, often doing morning pages as described by Julie Cameron in The Artists’ Way. I write with a pen and paper wherever possible, though I admit that much of my writing is happening on the computer now. Journaling, however, feels so much more intimate on paper. There is a self I’ve cultivated after years and years of journaling that is sort of like a shortcut to my most intimate heart, and it’s always there waiting for me when I journal, kind of like when you’re reading a great book and every time you pick it up, you enter that delicious, familiar, tantalizing world you never want to end. This is what journaling can do for our deep selves – make it a fascinating and knowable world, ripe for exploration. All it takes is the commitment to writing, daily if possible, to bring that self to light. It’s so valuable – I love it!

Q. Are you working on any other books or projects currently?

A. I am, many! I’m a Gemini, after all! I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a book of yoga poems, have recently completed a magic realist novel set in Japan about a two people looking for love as the world is about to lose its Sun; and I’m eager to get back to an abandoned novel about a misfit teen searching for the identity of her father, who’s given the task of figuring out nothing less than the secret to happiness. I hope she figures it out!