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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Little Tokyo

We have a focus on Little Tokyo as inspiration and a special triple threat treat for this month’s edition of Nikkei Uncovered. First, we have a piece from D Hideo Maruyama, based in LA and a veteran of the Asian American literary scene. Next is poetry from third generation LA native, Mike Sonksen, accompanied by artwork by his wife and Tokyo-born/LA-raised Emi Motokawa Sonksen. The literary and creative work from all three of these artists continues to make a substantial impact on the Asian American community and Los Angeles as a whole. We’re excited to include just ...

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FIRE

Fire. No, not in reference to the countless acres of land and livelihood burning across California this summer. But perhaps subconsciously inspired by the precarious path nature takes us on, I was drawn to this theme and to featuring these pieces meant for the mature reader of this month’s column. A prose piece from Alameda, California-based Colleen “Coke” Tani and a poem from Portland-based Jenna Yokoyama - these are searing pieces that speak in turns, facing inward and outward, inviting us in to moments where we need breath, we call for reckoning, we demand to heal.

— traci kato-kiriyama

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Colleen “Coke ...

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Short Form - Haiku and Senryu

This month I thought we’d have a little fun with short form and featuring two creative community members who are dear to the Japanese American and Little Tokyo communities. Sunny Seki (a.k.a. Sankyaku Seki) has taught senryu (a short form similar to haiku but with a focus on the human condition over a focus on seasons and nature) and curated and edited a wonderful collection of 100 years of Japanese American gardeners’ stories through senryu. Fran Ito, who shares a handful of haiku here, is an avid senior filmmaker with the Digital Histories program through Visual Communications ...

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Weaving

Happy summer, everyone! We’re excited to bring two more new voices to the Discover Nikkei platform - originally from the Midwest and now residing in LA, Kyoko Nakamaru; and originally from the South Bay and now residing in Portland, A’misa Chiu. Kyoko’s pieces connect her sense of self to another time and another shore in her lineage. A’misa’s deeply personal piece weaves in and out of the context of cultural silence sometimes too well known within Nikkeihood. Both poets’ pieces connect through language, aching, longing and all that is carried in the body and through the ...

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Inspiration

From Shin Nikkei Kyoko Takenaka (aka Jinjabrew) and Sansei Patty Nagano, we have pieces that span various themes of inspiration. From Kyoko we have lovely and fierce words on “femme” themes, from mothers to sisterhood. And knowing that Patty had just returned from Japan, I asked her if she would graciously oblige by quickly putting something together from the inspiration that abounds in the springtime—so thankful that she did. Enjoy!

—traci kato-kiriyama

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Patty Ito Nagano is a retired elementary school teacher. She moved to Downtown Little Tokyo with her husband Steve in 2011. She loves living in Little Tokyo ...

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