Sati Mookherjee

WAYS OF BEING, Sati Mookherjee. MoonPath Press, PO Box 445, Tillamook, OR 97141, 73 pages, $16 paper,

I am writing a “real” review of this book—Mookerjee’s second, and the winner of the 2023 Sally Albiso Award—to be posted at Escape Into Life (EIL) on May 5, 2023, its release date. So consider this a preview, my quick appreciation and shout-out to a stirring collection.

Washington State Book Award winner Sharon Hashimoto says in her cover blurb:

Rhythms, images and juxtapositions in these poems flow like waves filling and emptying, from past to present to what might be—all while glorying in occlusions. Sati Mookherjee’s lively word play questions our definitions, boundaries around spaces, and leads to fresh and original epiphanies…

“Occlusion,” a fine old word meaning “the blockage or closing of an opening, blood vessel, or hollow organ,” often used in a medical context. In these poems, where Salish Sea, tideflats, “the great lung of bay,” are loved, and desecrated like human bodies, the word is completely appropriate.

I’ll get carried away if I go on (and I want to save that for the review), so I’ll offer this short poem (some are quite long), as a teaser:


Lay your warm body on the warm earth
and sense how deep the roots go, the roots

we can’t see, think of the acres
of hot black lightless matter under your body.

I think the past is a perfectly fine place to live.
Why not be native to it, visit the present

as necessary, a tourist, in transit, on a brief journey.
I can see you’re dying. This terrarium,

even with its carefully laid nests of leaves and grass
and twigs, can’t keep you, I don’t want to keep you,

go home, back to where you need to be.

—Sati Mookherjee

I’m not sure “Ground” is the right choice—so many of the poems are grounded (deeply) in the present. These are poems of witness. A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Mookherjee enjoins us to treasure our time here, on earth, adjacent to water.

Ways of Being is available now for presale. Visit for more information. I’ll update the links when the full-length review is posted.

[Update 4.28.23] Mookherjee’s book launch is this coming Sunday in Bellingham, and you can reserve your seat now: 

My review of Ways of Being can be found here: 


Sharon Hashimoto, More American

MORE AMERICAN, Sharon Hashimoto. Off the Grid Press, Grid Books, Boston, MA, 2021, 80 pages, $16 paper,

I knew Sharon Hashimoto in graduate school, and have long been an admirer. Her first book of poetry, The Crane Wife, was a co-winner of the 2003 Nicholas Roerich Prize, originally published by Story Line Press and now reprinted by Red Hen Press. It was a privilege, this morning, to read her 2021 book, More American.

Samuel Green, the inaugural Washington State Poet Laureate, writes of this book:

I often wonder whether the urge to share joy isn’t one of the most primal human urgencies. Perhaps that’s behind the impulse to read so many of the poems of Sharon Hashimoto’s More American aloud to someone else. “Old memories are ghosts we walk through,” she says in one poem. Hashimoto knows how to let those ghosts bear witness without nostalgia in poems of reconciliation, tolerance, forgiveness, and the sort of love that understands it might never be seen for what it is… (back cover)

And that comes as close as I can to explaining why I’m sharing this book with you. Hashimoto has crafted poems here that collect and treasure family voices, stories of internment and military service, education, and a grandmother peeling onions, or rising from her bath. Every subject is given such poise and dignity, even when buttocks and breasts are “plump bags,” “socks stretched.” It is a book of family, and a book of witness to that family’s particular (and particularly) American history.

It’s also exquisitely crafted, both the book and the individual poems. In the first section, “Japanese-American Dictionary,” I found myself reading aloud, just for the pleasure of Hashimoto’s words, carefully chosen like ingredients her grandmother uses in her recipes: “shoyu-soaked ropes, / chicken sizzled in garlic and fat. Home // was smell: seaweed, ginger, and rice wine / vinegar” (“Oriental Flavors”).

Language abounds here. “What I knew of Japan / was in my parents’ faces: / okasan, ojisan—the baby sounds / I sometimes used for mother, father,” as we hear in another poem (“A Matter of Loyalty: Question #28, A Nisei’s Response”). These ghostly voices, though, are what I believe will stay with me.

Those Left to Tell: For A. C.

The Igbo of Nigeria believe
you’re only gone when the last relative

who remembers you has died. Dear cousin,
we’re old enough to recall Grandma’s kitchen—

the Nehi bottles of orange fizz lined up
for special meals on New Year’s with the shrimp,

those stiff translucent shells we snapped in half.
Her sink was wide and deep—big enough

to wash my sister in. Fifty years:
the largest anniversary picture

barely held us all while our numbers
quickly spread like ripples fanning far

from shore. Only Aunty Meri
lives on; my mom, your dad—a fading story

that holds huge holes we’ll never fully know.
Memory makes of us brief cameos.

—Sharon Hashimoto

If you’d like to learn more about Hashimoto and her writing, visit Poetry Foundation, Off the Grid Press, or follow this link to the Edmonds Bookshop poetry reading from April 21, 2022.