paper • 152 pages • 16.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-945588-51-8


Brian Komei Dempster

Winner of the Julie Suk Award in Poetry
Gold Award in Poetry from Northern California Publishers & Authors
Silver Winner of a Human Relations Indie Book Award
Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award in Poetry
Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award in Poetry
Reviewed in Southern Humanities Review
Reviewed in Mānoa
Featured twice by RHINO: in a graphic review and an editorial review

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. 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 parent 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?

Bird Cries

I miss exits, veer 
            through the world 
dangerous. Drive 

            with earplugs, strain my neck 
to check if my little boy 

              is all right. At home I wear headphones 
to block out 
            his squawks. In my own 

bird cage. Shut up I yell when he breaks 
              through. Squeeze his cheeks

hard. Hold him by the shoulders. Be quiet. A flock
              of seizures. His fingers claw  
into my wrist. He says so

              little. I can’t shut him
out. His good arm flaps. Shadows swoop                                                    

             down on him. I keep him 
from falling, keep him 
              from flying. Some sounds are torture 

my dad says. If my boy is quiet, his friends
             will like him. When he screams, neighbors could think

I’m hitting him. I strain  
             to hear the radio, cry 
when I drive

              to work. A blackbird can be seen
thirteen ways. I fly to retreats to write 

              about him. When I come 
back, he is still caged. I shampoo 
             his hazel hair, and he soothes me 

with coos Ay ai . . . Nice voice buddy
             I tell him.  He nests quiet

in his wheelchair. Poor little guy
            my mother reminds, so much to say 
and no words. His mind a deep sky 

            she believes 
he will rise into. 

Praise by Patrick Phillips
Praise by Li-Young Lee
Praise by Pat Matsueda for "Mānoa"
Praise by D. M. O'Connor for "RHINO"
Praise by Olivia Braley for "Southern Humanities Review"

Brian Komei Dempster’s central subject—his son’s epilepsy—could not be more freighted with risk, and yet Seize achieves a pitch-perfect harmony of lament and praise, suffering and solace. At its heart is the child Brendan—‘his head, a sunflower / too heavy / on its stem’—and a father’s searingly honest account of what it means to love him, ‘A gold knot / of shadow and light.’ This is a stunning, heartbreaker of a book.

The human body, simultaneously an instance of a promise and the site of trauma and a promise broken, is the boundless occasion of these rich and engaging poems. I love most about them the music of thinking in images, how it encompasses feeling and singing, ranging from the raw and open to the exquisite and philosophical. There is so much yearning in these poems, and so much rejoicing, and wondering out loud about the meaning of our time on earth, especially in the face of pain and suffering.

Seize is a beautiful book, symphonic in its music, intimate in its rendering of human flaws, and heroic in its attempts to portray a father and son reaching out to each other across the boundaries of their understanding. Read the full review.

The tension of a time bomb ticking throughout [Seize] is relentless, and there is the poet, hunched over, sweating, wire-cutters in hand, trying to defuse. Read the full review.

As its title suggests, Brian Komei Dempster’s new poetry collection, Seize arrests the reader from the beginning and keeps them rapt in its world until the final page. These poems glimmer and sputter life’s beauty and brutality in equal measure. Read the full review.