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caption: Brian Komei Dempster's Seize
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Brian Komei Dempster's Seize
Credit: Courtesy of Four Way Books

Poet’s search for grace, justice amid historic and current anti-Asian hate

In this installment of Shin Yu Pai’s Lyric World series, poet Brian Komei Dempster reads from his collections Topaz and Seize. His work considers what it is to be "othered" in America, historically and personally. The backdrops are the legacy of the Japanese internment camp era, the impact of anti-Asian bigotry, and the experience of raising a child with a disability.

Komei Dempster is the editor of From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps and Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement.

He is a professor of rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as Director of Administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies program.

It sounds paradoxical to call Seize an epic when it focuses on the individual, the everyday, the familiar and has a central figure who was diagnosed as “retarded, abnormal, impaired,” who hardly speaks, and who is greatly dependent on others. And yet that is the scale, importance, and achievement of Brian Komei Dempster’s second collection of poetry. Pat matsueda

Curated by Seattle-based poet Shin Yu Pai, Lyric World: Conversations with Contemporary Poets explores streams and tributaries of modern poetry, in readings and discussion. The series takes us into how poems come to be, how they find, inspire, and inform us, and how they provoke deeper conversations about the human experience.

Reading his work for the first time I was reminded of poets like Heather Nagami and Brandon Shimoda, who have also explored histories of racism and internment and its lasting impacts on their writing. Shin Yu Pai

Town Hall Seattle presented this event on April 12, 2021. Music for the program was provided by Brian’s brother, Loren Kiyoshi Dempster.