Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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Appetite

This month we have some light and delicious, sweet yet evocative, precious to ephemeral moments through the words shared here by the lovely yogi and artist, Genie Nakano, who hails from the South Bay of Los Angeles, and by Jeff Tanaka, a friend I met a few moons ago over in Toronto. Jeff currently resides, in his words, “on Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ Territory (Victoria, British Columbia).” Enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Genie Nakano is a poet/writer, dancer with a master's degree in dance from UCLA. She currently teaches yoga and tanka at Gardena Japanese Cultural Center. She was ...

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Open

Happy 2018, folks! Upon entering a new year, we put forth the theme of “open” to writers Mariko Rooks, a Culver City native who is currently studying at Yale, and Pogo Saito, now based in Nyssa, Oregon. Their pieces here explore critical openings between self and the things we want to let go of or draw nearer - there is challenge and reflection felt throughout...enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Mariko Fujimoto Rooks is a mixed race Japanese American and African American first-year student at Yale University, where she studies public health. She serves as an Student Coordinator for Yale’s Asian American ...

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December

For this final column of 2017, I chose to focus on the broad possibilities this month provides—it lends itself to the December 7 reflection that comes to us from Altadena based Ken Okuno, as much as it comes through bittersweet introspection from Wilmington, North Carolina based Daisuke Shen, whose words come from their time this month with family in Japan. Enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Ken Okuno is a Sansei, born and raised in Pasadena, California. A poet, novelist, and musician, he currently lives in Altadena, CA. He attended University of California, Berkeley where he won the Eisner Prize in poetry ...

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Place / Location

This month, we feature just one writer and a beloved one to the Discover Nikkei space at that—Chicago native, Erik Matsunaga. Erik’s piece is a simple moment between old childhood pals and one that sets an image of “home” or places of significance that are, at once, transient and meaningful…enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Erik Matsunaga is a Chicago-born fourth generation Nikkei American of Japanese and German descent. In addition to regular contributions to Discover Nikkei, his extensive research into Chicago’s Japanese American community has been most recently featured on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s The Afternoon Shift ...

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Bite

As we enter the final quarter of 2017, I didn't want to “ease” into fall but rather, take a bite out of it. Maybe there’s something feisty in the air with all the ash and soot and unrest all around us. In any case, this isn’t a time for languor but it could be a time for something a little outside the box. These two pieces—from El Cerrito-based poet Kazumi Chin and writer Lawrence Matsuda, who was born in the Minidoka, Idaho concentration camp during WWII—have their own bite to offer as we step forward ...

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