An Electric Literature “Most Anticipated Poetry Book of 2021”
From the intersection of Onondaga, Japanese, Cuban, and Appalachian cultures, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s newest collection arrives brimming with personal and political histories.
“‘You tell me how I was born what I am,’” demands Naka-Hasebe Kingsley—of himself, of the reader, of the world. The poems of Dēmos: An American Multitude seek answers in the Haudenosaunee story of The Lake and Her children; in the scope of a .243 aimed at a pregnant doe; in the Dōgen poem jotted on a napkin by his obaasan; in a flag burning in a church parking lot. Here, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley places multiracial displacement, bridging disparate experiences with taut, percussive language that will leave readers breathless.
With astonishing formal range, Dēmos also documents the intolerance that dominates American society. What can we learn from mapping the genealogy of a violent and loud collective? How deeply do anger, violence, and oppression run in the blood? From adapted Punnett squares to Biblical epigraphs to the ghastly comment section of a local news website, Dēmos diagrams surviving America as an other-ed American—and it refuses to flinch from the forces that would see that multitude erased.
Dēmos is a resonant proclamation of identity and endurance from one of the most intriguing new voices in American letters—a voice singing “long on America as One / body but many parts.”
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Praise and Prizes
“In a superbly inventive collection, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s work explores living under the dominance of whiteness in America and the history of violence, particularly against Native communities. These poems ask: is racial violence in this country’s DNA? How far will it go, how long will this go on? It is a bold inquisition into the damage that has been done, accomplished with creative risk-taking.”
“Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley brings together Onondaga, Japanese, Cuban, and Appalachian cultures to investigate multiracial dislocation, American intolerance, and the question we all ask—who am I?—in the teeming Dēmos: An American Multitude."
“With this latest collection, Kingsley writes an encompassing work that’s thematically wide-reaching and formally and linguistically playful, boasting poems that change in style, perspective, and temperament from one to the next. Kingsley proves an engaging, cerebral guide through it all.”
“With language as his pigment, with poetic form as his palette knives, Kingsley creates layer upon intimate layer as he uncovers multitudinous selves, simultaneously exploring just who is this WE in this ‘We the People.’”
Recommended for readers eager for nonquaint novels about seniors.”