Brian Komei Dempster

Brian Komei Dempster's debut book of poetry, Topaz, was published by Four Way Books in Fall 2013.  Dempster is editor of both From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America's Concentration Camps (Kearny Street Workshop, 2001), which received a 2007 Nisei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011). His work—as a poet, workshop instructor, and editor—has been recognized by grants from the Arts Foundation of Michigan and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the California State Library's California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Dempster has also received scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.  He is a professor of rhetoric and language and a faculty member in Asian Pacific American Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he also serves as Director of Administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies.

Updated April 2014

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Poems from Topaz

In an intergenerational reading held at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, March 15, 2014, Sansei poet and editor, Brian Komei Dempster, read these two poems, “Crossing” and “Steamer Trunk,” along with other work from his debut collection, Topaz, which looks at the legacy of the camp experience and its impact on younger generations (see Topaz book page).

Dempster also discussed his community-based writing projects and anthologies, in which Japanese Americans—mostly Nisei—tell their stories of wartime incarceration and post-war resettlement. Joining Dempster was project participant Toru Saito, who sang and played music, along with prominent Nisei writer ...

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Your Hands Guide Me Through Trains

From the bridge we stare down at the track, searching
the arch, where rails curve out of darkness. You lift me
on your shoulders and we balance in white light, the dead center
approaching. The whistle blows, a rumble climbs
through the bones of your feet, through your legs and hands into mine,

your right hand clenches my right,
your left hand clenches my left,
if this were 1942, my hands would be the handle
of your suitcase and your purple book scripted
in prayer. Torn from family, you board a boxcar, snap open

your case, set your brush and ...

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