BOOKS: When Words Are Not Enough

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“Seize” by Brian Komei Dempster (Four Way Books)

How does a father come to terms with the large and unknowable mysteries of a child who cannot communicate in a “normative” way?

How does a parent — especially one who is dependent on language — guide a child without the use of speech?

And how does one become the parents of another when their own uncertainties, their own wounds — intergenerationally from war, from strained race relations, from constantly being denied a place to belong — are still healing?

“Seize,” Brian Komei Dempster’s follow-up to “Topaz,” spares no one the highs and lows of fatherhood. The speaker struggles to care for his young and ailing child — a child whose many medical problems create an obstacle course of moral and emotional dilemmas.

These poems also link his son’s physical and verbal seizure to the wartime story of his mother — just an infant when she and her family were forcibly removed from their church home in San Francisco’s Japantown and imprisoned in the Topaz, Utah camp. Other themes the book explores include mixed-race identity, racial violence, and PTSD of war veterans.

“Topaz” (Four Way Books, 2013), Dempster’s debut book of poems, received the 15 Bytes 2014 Book Award in Poetry. “Seize,” his second collection of poetry, was published in fall 2020.

Dempster is also the editor of “Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement” (Heyday, 2011) and “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.

He is a professor of rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as the director of administration for the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies program. and was an instructor for Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California’s Senior Writing class.

On the Web: https://briankomeidempster.com/

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