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Sesshu Foster

sesshu foster dust on the roadside, deep dust on leaves, crumbs, crumbling… 25 years teaching (snap fingers). smoky haze crosses thoughts. free helicopter ride across the cascades south of el dorado glacier with broken ankle & $50. ranger joe lowe (i was so happy to see him) called for a chopper to get me out of the stehekin river where i was so free & easy on the rocks 40 miles from my vehicle—joe lowe asked me to critique his story. i critiqued joe’s story & sent him a check for $100. with a bottle of percodan or percocet from the ER, i rode 1200 miles back to los angeles, my broken leg wrapped in an ace bandage, writing notes about whatever i saw looking backwards. the pain of 1200 miles on a broken ankle was nothing like after they screwed a piece of steel on it & inserted eight screws. i sent the notes to the BELIEVER MAGAZINE in thanks for their 2006 award, and they said thanks, sesshu.

Poet, teacher, and community activist Sesshu Foster grew up in in East Los Angeles. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and returned to LA to continue teaching, writing, and community organizing. His first collection of poetry, City Terrace Field Manual (1996), celebrates the neighborhood Foster grew up in. He has said that representing his community as one of his central tasks. He is the author of American Loneliness: Selected Poems (2006). His third collection of poetry, World Ball Notebook (2009), won an American Book Award and an Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. Foster is the author of the novel of speculative fiction Atomik Aztex (2005), which won the Believer Book Award and imagines an America free of European colonizers. Foster’s work has been published in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry (2000), Language for a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (2008), and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems (2008). He co-edited the anthology Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry (1989). Foster has taught in East LA for 25 years as well as at the University of Iowa, the California Institute for the Arts, Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Pomona University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in Los Angeles.


City Terrace Field Manual

Kaya Press 1996

In this powerful collection of prose poetry, Sesshu Foster maps the physical and psychological terrain of his childhood home, the predominantly Chicano barrio of East Los Angeles known as City Terrace. More than a tour through a bleak and burnt out landscape, however, City Terrace Field Manual is a guide to reading the face of a neighborhood — its histories and inhabitants, landmarks and wars. Haunted by L.A.’s explosive past, these vignettes and poetic riffs trace the lines of violence, racism, and neglect that lead from the World War II internment of Japanese Americans to the warfare on the streets of Watts and Koreatown to the frustrated anger of a boy punching out factory windows with his bare fists. Foster’s poems push the boundaries of form and language, embodying the multiplicity, the double vision, and the explosive tension at the heart of the urban edge.


City of the Future

Kaya Press 2018

Release Date: 3/7/2018 Pre-order your copy!

Twenty-one years after Kaya Press first published Sesshu Foster’s City Terrace Field Manual, a powerful collection of prose poems that map the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Foster’s childhood, comes a new collection of poetry and prose that takes on gentrification, modernization and globalization, as told from the same corner of this rapidly changing metropolis.

These poems are, in the poet’s words: “Postcards written with ocotillo and yucca. Gentrification of your face inside your sleep. Privatization of identity, corners, and intimations. Wars on the nerve, colors, breathing. Postcard poems of early and late notes, mucilage, American loneliness. Postcard poems of slopes, films of dust and crows. Incarceration nation ‘Wish You Were Here’ postcards 35 cents emerge from gentrified pants. You can’t live like this. Postcards sent into the future. You can’t live here now; you must live in the future, in the City of the Future.”



“This is pure California mainlined straight into language that sears the skin off 99 percent of what purports to be literary competence. In a just world, Foster would be selling millions of copies of his beautiful accomplishment, but the world’s not just, as the book’s brilliant, crystalline pieces make plain, and that’s why he’s writing and why you should hear him and buy his book.”
— San Francisco Bay Guardian

“This stuff is crackling! Foster’s brilliant eye for the essentially human and his crisp blue-collar imagery create an important, powerful, moving prosody—the best since Kerouac and beyond.”
— Wanda Coleman

“I thank Sesshu Foster for detailing the poetic soundtrack of a people and a place, of their history and their dreams. I know these streets, these images, these songs and voices; they reverberate inside me still, taking me back to the concrete river, the City Terrace topography. Sesshu Foster is dangerous, ese! The way a poet should be.”
— Luis J. Rodriguez

“Sesshu Foster startles you, surprises you, even shocks you; his writing sparkles with new insights and images; at the same time, he engages you in the context of continuing history and you realize you’re in what could be familiar territory: ‘Ah, yes–how it is!'”
— Lawson Fusao Inada

Sesshu Foster news


On March 7, 2018, Kaya Press will be rolling out our second book by Sesshu Foster, City of the Future! About City of the Future: Twenty-one years after Kaya Press first published Sesshu Foster’s City Terrace Field Manual, a powerful collection of prose poems that map the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Foster’s childhood, comes a new collection […]

Kaya Press at AWP

AWP is an annual literary conference that brings together over 12,000 writers and publishers from all over the country. Come visit us at Booth 1310! Kaya Press and Tia Chucha Press are sharing a space (which will also feature work by Tiny Splendor, and Dum Dum Zine). And here is a roundup of Kaya’s smoking hot literary […]

Kaya Turns 20 in San Francisco

Kaya Press celebrates 20 years of publishing innovative Asian Pacific American and Asian diasporic literature in San Francisco, April 16 – 19, in conjunction with the Association for Asian American Studies Conference. Kaya 20th Anniversary Reading at City Lights Bookstore | Thursday April 17 | 7:30 p.m. | 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway Come to […]

Sesshu Foster Reads With California Poet Laureate

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Riverside, CA– Kaya Press author Sesshu Foster read with California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera at The University of California, Riverside Science Library. He read a mix of his vintage pieces and new work. One highlight of the reading was the genuine warm greeting between the readers– a meeting between old […]


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— Junot Díaz