A life’s work


The Journey Continues

By Peter Yamamoto (San Francisco: National Japanese American Historical Society, 271 pp., $10.95, paperback)

Peter Kenichi Yamamoto’s book of poetry, “The Journey Continues” (2020), marks the culmination of the life-labor of a poet and activist who dedicated his creative talents and generous spirit toward the betterment of his community and world. Published posthumously by the National Japanese American Historical Society, the book is comprised of poems written between 2012-2018, pieces that follow Yamamoto’s first book of poetry, “Journey” (2012), and extend Yamamoto’s poetic pursuit of wisdom, self-realization, and personal and social justice.

Yamamoto’s collection of poems, organized across varying themes and poetic forms, invite the reader on a lyrical odyssey through the perspective of a poet who traveled through life with a rare kind of genuineness, true to his time and place, or in his words: “I live the combined community life/Of a Yonsei-Hapa/In this San Francisco/America.” Along the way, Yamamoto lived through so many of the major chapters in Japanese American and Asian American history in San Francisco, from the fall (and rise) of the I-Hotel, redress and remembrance for incarcerated Japanese Americans, the Manilatown jazz scene, and J-Town community life, past and present.

His poetry will be a historical treasure trove for those who seek the voices and memories of the past, for in the words of Tony Robles, poet and nephew of Al Robles, “Pete was a keeper of stories, a protector of stories.”

Yamamoto, who passed away in 2018, also responded to his time and larger world with great conscience and political commitment, “A cross between/The Shakyamuni Buddha/And Karl Marx.” This is seen in his poems written in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests, justice for victims of wartime atrocities, the nuclear fallout following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, and his passion for promoting alliances among workers across ethnic and national borders, to name a few. Readers also encounter the great joys, longings and loves known by Yamamoto during his life.

Dedicated by the author to “those who are moving toward truth and the better welfare of all others,” the poems included in “The Journey Continues” will long affirm Yamamoto’s significance as part of the tradition of Nikkei writing, but they also possess a unique poignancy in light of the author’s meditations on mortality and the poet’s own passing in 2018.

While the poet’s life has now concluded, what remains are the journeys we, Yamamoto’s readers, will now take, and the many lessons to be learned from the life and times of poet Peter Kenichi Yamamoto.

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