Discover Nikkei

To Spring

In our last moments of spring, we’re making room for both reflection and movement forward. I invited this month’s guest poets to share some poetry on the broad themes of “spring” in terms of reflecting, looking ahead, making strides, leaving, leaping—whether with joy or exasperation or anything in between. We’re excited to honor the end of this transitional season with the rush of wonderful poetry by San Francisco-based professor, Brynn Saito, and Dorchester, MA-based writer and strategist, Tamiko Beyer. Enjoy.

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Brynn Saito is the author of two books of poetry, Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press, and finalist for the Northern California Book Award. She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace (chapbook, Diode Editions). Brynn is a recipient of the Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship and a California State Library Civil Liberties grant. Originally from Fresno, CA, Brynn teaches and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Things I Never Knew I Loved

            after Nazim Hikmet
            with a line by Staceyann Chin
            for The American Bookbinders Museum and Lantern Review
            for my mother

It’s April 16, 2016.
I never knew I loved the book—
its careful spine and springtime stitch, the tercet’s weaving
of memory and blood—this love.

If the body is a book, then I am open.
If the body is a book, then pain is the narrator.

I’m on my back in the night again and sweating and imagining angels.
I never knew I loved angels.
I never knew I loved my body.
The angels pull red ribbons of pain from me—
the angels circle—
the angels whisper: remember your childhood—
how you loved the soil
and dancing, how you dug your toes into the earth of the summer garden,
your father planting and your mother near.

I never knew I loved the garden
and sky
and this city, though it destroys me
and these streets, though they deceive me
and this windswept unpaced beauty, though where is a place for poetry?

In the night, I am everything I fear.
In the morning, I am all I ever want to be:
a girl, flying,
a sprawling orchard under dawn-pink skies—
I never knew I loved blooming.
I never knew I loved
the orchards of my youth
and the boy who died there by his own hand
and the boys from my hometown

who rushed to war
the way they rushed off summer decks, flinging their bodies
into the greatest bodies of water—
their limbs unpinned, our fates unwritten.
Their limbs: unstitched and wild—like ribbons of light.

* This poem is copyrighted by Brynn Saito (2017)


* * * * *

Tamiko Beyer is the author of We Come Elemental (Alice James Books, winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist) and the chapbook bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, The Volta, Dusie, and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from Kundiman, Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, Hedgebrook, and Washington University in St. Louis where she received her M.F.A. in creative writing. She is a social justice communications writer and strategist who spends her days writing truth to power. She lives in Dorchester, MA. 

Tankas for what comes together

Marsh grass feathers at
river’s curve—great blue heron,
eagle. In the morning
narrative of our walk, what
comes together is a feeling.

We are people,
the dog, the birds. We all emerge
from sleep, nestled
into each other and that
is the best way of waking.

At the seashore, wind
almost lift our spindrift bodies
sand scrapes at our skin.
Let that sleek seal beat back the waves:
thunder amasses in cloud

I do not believe
in the failure of caring
for each other. How
can I when you, cascading
wave, accumulate action?

We run the tactic,
defy abandonment, singe
the blacked-out papers.
The sleek edge is not enough:
we must find the right cut. Let’s

say the water
again. The tide’s pattern and
the rising sound.
The world goes forward
in need of our outrage.

Words float from mouth
to ear. Mine full of smoke and gin
songs. What begins in cold
clarity wavers when you follow
one star to the constellation

best seen from the corner
of the eyes. Inside your lit
house: bite of endive,
radish, moon. Your lip cracks, sweet
curves, like to like we bleed.

* This poem is copyrighted by Tamiko Beyer (2016)


© 2017 Brynn Saito; 2016 Tamiko Beyer

Brynn Saito Discover Nikkei literature Nikkei Uncovered (series) poetry poets seasons spring Tamiko Beyer tanka Traci Akemi Kato-Kiriyama
About this series

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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About the Authors

Brynn Saito’s third book of poetry, Under a Future Sky, will be published in September 2023 by Red Hen Press. She is the recipient of the Benjamin Saltman Award and her poems have appeared in the New York Times and American Poetry Review. Brynn lives in Fresno, CA, where she is an Assistant Professor at California State University, Fresno, located on Yokuts and Mono lands, and co-director of Yonsei Memory Project.

Updated December 2022

Tamiko Beyer (she/her) is the author of the poetry collections Last Days (Alice James Books) and We Come Elemental (Alice James Books), winner of the Kinereth Gensler Award, and chapbooks Dovetail (co-authored with Kimiko Hahn, Slapering Hol Press) and Bough breaks (Meritage Press). Her poetry and articles have been published widely, including by Denver Quarterly, Idaho Review, Dusie, Black Warrior Review, Georgia Review, Lit Hub, and the Rumpus. She has received awards from PEN America and the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, and fellowships and residencies from Kundiman, Hedgebrook, and VONA, among others. She publishes Starlight and Strategy, a monthly newsletter for living life wide awake and shaping change. She is a queer, multiracial (Japanese and white), cisgender woman and femme, living and writing in on Massachusett, Wampanoag, and Pawtucket land. A social justice communications writer and strategist, she spends her days writing truth to power. More at

Updated October 2021

traci kato-kiriyama is a performer, actor, writer, author, educator, and art+community organizer who splits the time and space in her body feeling grounded in gratitude, inspired by audacity, and thoroughly insane—oft times all at once. She’s passionately invested in a number of projects that include Pull Project (PULL: Tales of Obsession); Generations Of War; The (title-ever-evolving) Nikkei Network for Gender and Sexual Positivity; Kizuna; Budokan of LA; and is the Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project and Co-Curator of its flagship “Tuesday Night Cafe.” She’s working on a second book of writing/poetry attuned to survival, slated for publication next year by Writ Large Press.

Updated August 2013

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