Brian Komei Dempster

Brian Komei Dempster's second poetry collection, Seize, was published by Four Way Books in fall 2020. His debut book of poems, Topaz (Four Way Books, 2013), received the 15 Bytes 2014 Book Award in Poetry. Dempster is editor of 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). He is a professor of rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as Director of Administration for the Master’s in Asia Pacific Studies program.

Updated January 2021

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Nikkei a Descoberto: uma coluna de poesia

Seize—transformation & renewal

Leaving the end of a long 2020 while entering 2021 with a combination of uncertainty, excitement, determined joy, and perpetual angst, I thought it fitting to have this month’s theme derive its inspiration from the writer and the title of his latest book of poetry, Seize. This month’s feature, Brian Komei Dempster—a Sansei author and educator based in the Bay Area of California—graciously provided us with a handful of beautiful pieces from Seize, based upon my request to think on the ideas of “transformation” and “renewal.” The two we are able t…

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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 resettlemen…

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Your Hands Guide Me Through Trains

From the bridge we stare down at the track, searchingthe arch, where rails curve out of darkness. You lift meon your shoulders and we balance in white light, the dead centerapproaching. The whistle blows, a rumble climbsthrough 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 handleof your suitcase and your purple book scriptedin prayer. Torn from family, you board a boxcar, snap open your case, set your brush and ink to the right,stones to the left, paint your own sea an…

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