Amy Uyematsu is a third-generation Japanese-American poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She has published three previous poetry collections: 30 Miles from J-Town (Story Line Press, 1992), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (Story Line Press, 1997), and Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Her first book was awarded the 1992 Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Amy was a co-editor of the widely-used UCLA Asian American Studies anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader.
Publication Date: October 1, 2016
In a stirring collection of word-based poetry, Amy Uyematsu deconstructs human reasoning in war and the desire for power, leaving bare our most basic and intimate hope for love and safety. Both dissonant and honest, Basic Vocabulary welcomes peace in a time of uncertainty.
“Amy Uyematsu is an essential L.A. poet whose poems fly into advanced blue space. In palm tree twilight dusk, Amy’s poems reach me in spite of everything. Her figures of maths, her tropes of Zen compassion, the healing poetics of cancer survival and lived experience cut through the intersections of America’s apartheid imagination, the gentrification of every minute and every hour, the doom of lives lost for want of poetry.”—Seshu Foster
“Uyematsu begins with a list of the 35 most stable words found in human languages— each word begets a verse which stands in relationship to that other abiding reality—war. In this wise and gorgeous collection, she engages with language itself, entering deeply into seeing and hearing the ways that war shapes consciousness. Her work shows us once again that poetry is an enduring instrument for exploration of the depths. Basic Vocabulary both dazzles and devastates!”—Marsha de la O
“If you wonder what good poetry can do or if the revolutionary spirit of American poetry is alive and well, read this book. Amy Uyematsu is the answer. Uyematsu catalogues mortality and the human condition with bravery and grace. Whether she questions wars, explores our “human echo,” or stares down breast cancer and its aftermath, this is a fierce and crucial poet at the height of her poetic powers.”—Lee Herrick
“There’s a beat behind these poems, a rhythm that just won’t stop as one poetic invention after another screams or whispers itself across the page, revealing, once again, Amy Uyematsu’s love and fierce determination to never turn away, not from the gratuitous human stupidity of violence, racism, war, and injustice, and not from the insistent miracle life remains in all its beauty and wonder. We need poems like these to shake us up, and to nourish us at the root of what we are. Basic Vocabulary does all of that; it is spoken in a language we have known since before we were born.”—Peter Levitt
The Yellow Door
Publication Date: April 2, 2015
Sansei Amy Uyematsu’s The Yellow Door celebrates her Japanese-American roots and the profound changes that have occurred in her lifetime. As a woman born after World War II, her six decades in Los Angeles are captured in verse that link Hokusai woodblack paintings, her grandparents’ journeys to California, church parties playing Motown music, and Buddhist obon festivals. With the color yellow as a running theme, Uyematsu embraces “the idea of being a curious, sometimes furious yellow.” A genuine product of the sixties, she adds her own unique LA Buddhahead twist to Asian American identity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
“The Yellow Door is both an exuberant and heartfelt dialogue between the poet’s past and present. Amy Uyematsu, now a grandmother herself, now stands in the middle of five generations, pondering decisions made by her immigrant grandparents as well as her younger self. The role of yellow in forming and reforming Uyematsu’s ethnic and political consciousness is explored ferociously without apology. Once viewing herself as an outsider, Uyematsu has found freedom to truly dance. A pitch-perfect collection by one of LA’s finest poets.”—Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award, winning novelist
“The Yellow Door is a mature and ambitious book, unapologetic about identity politics and peopled with literary friends of the Asian-American movement and other vivid ‘historicized’ apparitions. Charlie Chan, relocation camps, Executive Order 9066, sansei brides . . . all the familiar movement monikers will make the reader nostalgic for her activist past. . . . Sigh, those were the days when social protest really mattered! A thoroughly compelling read! An enthusiastic ‘thumbs up!'”—Marilyn Chin
“Amy Uyematsu holds nothing back in this insightful, compelling and poetic narrative that gives a personal voice to the history of our nation’s Asian-American citizens. Indeed, there are poems of struggle and pain here, but also of humor and joy, for at the heart of this work is the love, honor and rightful pride of a Japanese-American poet whose commitment to freedom and justice combines with dignity and compassion as she unflinchingly engages the world that brings itself to her door. I am terrifically moved by this work.”—Peter Levitt, Recipient of the Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry
“Amy Uyematsu is one of LA’s best poets, one of our most necessary voices. The Yellow Door takes us on neighborhood walks and beach walks along the Pacific and across generations, enjambing eras and pungent seasons in a phrase, granitic continents and the salt of history folded in the creases of caesura. I’m grateful for this book, which I receive like a bowl offered redolent and steaming with both hands.”—Sesshu Foster