The first major poetry collection from an award-winning student of Robert Pinsky, exploring the inherited trauma within his Japanese American family, his life as an artist, and his bond with his wife
In 65 lyric poems organized into a triptych, Common Grace offers an important new lens into Asian American life, art, and love.
Part 1, “Soul Sauce,” describes the poet’s life as a practicing visual artist, taking us from an early encounter with an inkwell at Roseland Elementary in 1969 to his professional outdoor easel perched on Long Island Sound.
Part 2, “Ubasute,” is named after the mythical Japanese practice wherein “a grown son lifts / his aged mother on his back, / delivers her to a mountain, / leaves her to die.” This concept frames a wrenching portrayal of his parents’ decline and death, reaching back to his father’s time in the American internment camps of WWII and his mother’s memories of the firebombing of Tokyo. It also anchors the two outer parts in the racial trauma and joys passed down from his parents.
Part 3, “Gutter Trees,” gives us affecting love poems to his wife and the creative lives they’ve built together.
Ranging in scope from private moments to the sweep of familial heritage, Caycedo-Kimura’s poems are artful, subtle, but never quiet.
About the Author
Aaron Caycedo-Kimura is a writer and visual artist. His chapbook, Ubasute, was selected by Jennifer Franklin, Peggy Ellsberg, and Margo Taft Stever as the 2020 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition winner. His honors include a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry, a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award in Literature, and nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets anthologies. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Poetry Daily, RHINO, upstreet, Verse Daily, DMQ Review, and elsewhere. He is the author and illustrator of Text, Don’t Call: An Illustrated Guide to the Introverted Life.
“These well-wrought poems show a distinct artistic sensibility. Through personal loss, grief, and love, they enter the domain of history and human migrations. Common Grace is an uncommon book, elegant, at times tough-minded, also moving.” —Ha Jin, National Book Award–winning author of Waiting
“In vivid, moving poems that span cultures, generations, and geographies, Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s Common Grace evokes the mysteries and wonder in everyday life. Here is a poet of clear-eyed originality, big-hearted and wise—and a book to read again and again.” —Matthew Thorburn, author of The Grace of Distance
“The quality of wonder, lucid and luminous, energizes Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s Common Grace. In these poems, the visible world radiates meaning, memory becomes palpable, and loss is acknowledged. Caycedo-Kimura brings a wry, tender, musical and unsentimental attention to family love, sexual love, love of nature, and the underlying love of art.” —Robert Pinsky, 3-time United States Poet Laureate
“I love the tender, lyrical ‘labored stroke’ with which poet-painter Aaron Caycedo-Kimura makes his art. With a poet’s sensibility and an artist’s cool eye, he elegizes and celebrates his family’s heartbreaking, triumphant history, and his own. Common Grace, his first full-length collection, pays fluent loving attention to life and art—and their rewards glow!” —Gail Mazur, author of Land’s End: New and Selected Poems
“Aaron Caycedo-Kimura’s debut full-length collection, Common Grace, spans decades, geography, and poetic styles and forms. At once a moving yet unsentimental tribute to his Japanese parents (who wanted ‘no funeral no obituary in the newspaper’), as well as an ars poetica of an introverted poet-painter, Common Grace is no common book of poetry. A better tribute than any gravestone or obituary, Common Grace (with its striking images, chorus of different forms, and historical narratives, including those of Japanese internment) announces Caycedo-Kimura as an important new voice making art from the complexities and contradictions of being a third-generation Japanese American. In work that is both deeply personal and profoundly universal, Caycedo-Kimura, in looking at a photograph of his mother, writes (‘Tokyo Army Hospital, 1957,’): ‘She’s twenty-nine, half my age. I want to go back in time, tell her something wise or at least helpful, but having lived through a world war, she already knows more than I do.’ The poems in Common Grace offer us both beauty and wisdom in equal measure.” —Jennifer Franklin, author of No Small Gift