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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On the inside

Welcome to another special edition of Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column. Two staff I work closely with at the Japanese American National Museum, public programs extraordinaire Joy Yamaguchi and digital guru Vicky Murakami-Tsuda, allowed me to facilitate a process with them to write poetry grounded in this particular era of Covid-19, lockdowns, missing and finding family, and the overall unknown of now. They took a risk, trusted the process, and ran with it and crafted some really lovely work. We thought it would be fun to try something new, especially since the day this publishes we will also have our ...

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Comfort

This month, we feature California-based Yonsei writer, Kendall Tani, and Arizona-based Sansei writer, Susan Yamamura. Susan’s is a lighthearted parody poem that heralds where we look for some solace during a time of major strife, while Kendall’s first piece featured here, soft bodies, speaks to a relationship with oneself through an intimate practice of shaping earth (and future) by hand. Both reminded me of the ideas of comfort and doing something good for ourselves...like poetry, a vessel through which we might practice introspection, our potential, or a bit of peace....enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Kendall Tani is a ...

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Spare Abundance

In a time of ever changing and heightened needs for social distancing, self isolation and attention to the greatest ways we can care for oneself and each other, I’m grateful to still be able to share two short poems from artists Courtney Ozaki and Margaret Ozaki Graves, both of whom are based in Denver. Their pieces speak to the solace we can find in moments of quiet, solitude, and reflection—and that the resilience before us or inside of us is ever present if we’re paying attention. 

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Courtney Ozaki is a creative producer based in Denver ...

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Locale

This month I was inspired by the Little Tokyo Candidates Forum that occurred at the top of the month, to present an opportunity for all current city council candidates a chance to speak with the community. The forum, with many passionate expressions for the neighborhood, made me think on locality, affinity and the infinite ways with which you can fall in love with a community. I thought it would be fun at long last to feature a behind the scenes tech genius who works at Little Tokyo Service Center and is also a private poet - Cleveland, Ohio born and raised ...

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Harmonics

This being the first month of a new year, I thought we’d present “poetics” with a different approach from any other edition of the column—to feature lyrics of two songwriters of different generations and share a bit of their music to boot. For January 2020, we have a song from a brilliant musician, Goh Nakamura, who now hails from Little Tokyo, and a classic from a true legend, Nobuko Miyamoto.

We’re also including links to some tracks for you to hear some of their work.

With a surely formidable year ahead, we could all use the inspiration ...

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