Themes in Power Made Us Swoon
Brynn Saito’s book, Power Made Us Swoon, reflects personal and historical memories. Saito outlines the environment that shaped her together with her family. The book presents poems on bravery, girlhood, towns, farming, and family. Saito through her poems talks of history which has remained silent and factors including media, television, patriarchy and car accidents that characterizes American life in the 21st century. Regardless of the many themes in Power Made Us Swoon, girlhood and woman’s brevity pervade Brynn Saito’s literature. Saito examines the histories that girls go through while growing up. Through the object of television, she exhibits an American girl growing under the influence of media. She also shows that in the wake of the 21st century the girls are brave and they can do things that were traditionally assumed to belong to boys as portrayed by the fighting girls in the “Like Any Good American” poem. In the same poem, Saito narrates how television and media have influenced girlhood. In line one the narrator talks of how she has become addicted to the television to the extent that she does not know what is happening around her, particularly when she says, “Sometimes my mother calls and I don’t answer” (Saito 50). The narrator proceeds by pointing out that “Sometimes a siren sings past the window and summer air pushes in dripping with the scent of human sweat / But what do I care” (Saito 50). In the 21st century, the girl values television and media more than anything else. Saito further explores girlhood using her life experiences as presented through the narrator words, “Whose story / has taken up residence in my body, what ghost” (Saito 61). In her collections, Saito compares time to smoke as she struggles to recall the past experiences of her ancestry.
Woman brevity is one of the dominant themes in the book. The subject has appeared in several poems, especially the ones associated with the impact of World War II on the survivors. Through woman, Saito strives to voice existing community, political and personal effects of World War II on Japanese Americans. In the poem, “Stone Returns, 70 Years Later” brevity of a woman is shown when the narrator, the woman, positions herself between the stones of the camp, the survivors, and their descendants (Saito 41-42). The woman in the poem is the mother to the narrator, and she has been presented as a prototypical ghost. Saito associates the “Stone Returns, 70 Years later” to “Stone Chorus: Manzanar” poem which talks on behalf of the survivors on the horror which incarcerated Japanese Americans had to go through. “In the desert between the mountains / the winds were luxuriant. //They were blue and carried rumors and little/yellow flowers from barrack / to barrack and disease. We were surrounded / I tell you” (Saito 39). The above quote reflects the horror history of the war that the survivors have continued to struggle with every day, and it takes the brevity of a woman for the story to be told.
In the “Stone Returns, 70 Years Later” the personified stone which in this case is a brave woman who speaks through the voices of the survivors and the children. The woman acts as the custodian of the incarnation history, and she seems horrified by the past events, especially when she says “I’m worn. I’m tired / of their histories. When I dream // I dream of silence so vast and expansive / it packs tight space // beneath the canopy of stars. / It bears down like hail. It threatens // to swallow. What I have of a heart skips beats” (Saito 41-42). The woman in the image of the stone speaks of the awful experiences that the camp dwellers had to endure as well the consequences that children and their descendants suffer.The woman brevity has again been portrayed through the attributes of a woman warrior. The woman warrior surfaces in several poems, and she acts an archetypal and an instrument of narrating the author’s biography. For example, in the poem “Alone Time” the woman warrior appears to have been unwillingly empowered by the myths and ancient stories. Saito writes “calls out from the cold water to the absent maker / makes herself take zero breaths. When she comes up for air / the vultures, circle high above her like living stars” (47). As a warrior woman she is a goddess, and as such, she is perceived as a maker. However, due to her powers, enemies, vultures, seems to salivate for her flesh.
Inarguably, Power Made Us Swoon presents Brynn Saito artistic skills to speak on behalf of the communities affected by imprisonment during the war. In doing so, the poet brings in new aspects of a woman through girlhood and a woman’s courage. Saito does so by employing mythical figures, ghosts, and multiple voices. Through her personal and past experiences, she creates a memorial collection that offers a lyrical reflection to those who lack first-hand information, and more so the survivors and the descendants. Saito gifts herself as a brave woman, and through her collections, she tells the truth about America that viewed its citizens as aliens and enemies.