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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Theme: (open)

This month I wanted to leave the theme open and invite two young voices who are both incredibly active in community building work here in Los Angeles. Kahlil Kochiyama is a UCSB (University of California, Santa Barbara) student from the South Bay - his piece places us in his relationship with a simple tool of constant use in both nourishment and reflection on roots and culture. Mya Worrell hails from USC (University of Southern Califonia) via Sacramento county - their work here is a fan poem of the popular musician Mitski and an eye into critical, meaningful fandom and the art/artists we need in our lives. Enjoy!

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Mya Worrell (they/them) is an eclectic, self-taught artist and poet. Originally from Folsom, they’re now a rising senior at University of Southern California studying Gender Studies and American Studies & Ethnicity. They’re always down for a conversation about zines, indie comics, shoujo nostalgia, transformative justice, and decolonial science.

the closest male voice wails hypnotically
that Mitski is just a feminine,
darkly intoxicating
dissonant, hammering
fraught crevice of her own heart.
Mitski dwells within.
MITSKI compresses the quixotic

can’t see yourself there

you can’t see
the wife
IT’S 1950

Mitski said
“A lot of people don’t understand
that I’m the creator,” and
“Since becoming a professional artist
a part of me has died,”
Surrounded by the needs
and praise of the People I wanted music
the death trap that was dream.

imagine where
he tries to wrestle his wife down,
the tables turn.

A young Asian woman discovers
her own alienation
But at least she’s free.

Cut & paste from a feature on Mitski in the 2018 annual issue of Kore London trust media.

* This poem is copyrighted by Mya Worrell (2019).


* * * * *

Kahlil Kochiyama, who identifies as 5th generation or Gosei, is a recent graduate from the University of California, Santa Baraba, where he majored in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Professional Writing. When he’s not at a coffee shop scouring the internet for entry-level jobs in Environmental Justice, you can find him thrifting, enjoying live music, or attempting to build a cornhole set as a summer project. He hopes to further his work in building solidarity across marginalized communities, and intersecting environmentalism and sustainability with his future endeavours.

Dear Hashi,

Fighting my inhibitions to dare to imagine
to dream
to push the limits of my own creativity
I am writing to you
with genuine appreciation

You’re beyond a mere tool
Two twigs pinching a means to survival
Lifted up to meet another hungry mouth to feed
But filling it with udon
and nigiri
remnants of words
An unfamiliar taste
on this foreign tongue
The bitterness of butchered phrases
and the sourness of mispronunciation
are at times
to palate
to swallow
or to stomach
A reality I constantly try to digest

You’ve given my hands something tangible
something real
and finally
something not abstract to hold
Something to cling to when all else of my
and history
seem to be slipping away at my fingertips
no matter how firm I attempt to grasp

You serve as a reminder
Two parts that comprise a whole
working in unison to deliver what is necessary
to feed our souls
Both equal
both interchangeable
both utilizing their unique role
to strengthen our bodies and minds
It is you that is the mirror in which reflects
the importance
the responsibility
the moral obligation
that is within me
to uphold and uplift myself in collaboration with others
to ensure that one day
everyone not only gets a seat at the table
but finally
everyone eats

A Hungry Gosei

* This poem is copyrighted by Kahlil Kochiyama (2019).


© 2019 Mya Worrell; Kahlil Kochiyama

chopsticks hashi Mitski Nikkei Uncovered poet poetry

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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