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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. He is the author of the poetry collections City Terrace Field Manual (Kaya Press, 1996), American Loneliness: Selected Poems (2006),  World Ball Notebook (2009), which won an American Book Award and an Asian American Literary Award for Poetry, and City of the Future. 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

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‘s City of the Future forces readers to rethink poetry, postcards, and the present by asking us to reimagine how we use language but also how language is used upon us. His work is one of utmost service. On a neighborly and communitarian level, Foster’s work documents and challenges injustice. Beginning with “in the infinite city,” the text builds image after image of sentient beings in “the city”—a space defined by its problematic (and dehumanizing) charge. City of the Future is part manifesto, part conversation/correspondence, and part elegy—this is a rare portrait of a space that is actively disappearing.” — 2019 Firecracker Awards for Poetry judges

Sesshu Foster news

City of the Future Won 2019 Firecracker Award for Poetry!

FIRECRACKER AWARDS are awarded to the best self and independently published books of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry and the best literary magazines in the categories of debut and general excellence. The winners were announced at CLMP annual awards ceremony, held this year on June 5 at Poets House in New York City. What the judges say about City of the […]

Sesshu Foster’s CITY OF THE FUTURE is named as a Times Literary Supplement “Book of the Year 2018”

There are so many accolades to celebrate that the Tiger is running out of confetti poppers! Chris Kraus named Sesshu Foster’s CITY OF THE FUTURE as one of the “Books of the Year 2018” in The Times Literary Supplement.  Congratulations, Sesshu!  

Kaya at 2018 SoCal Poetry Fest!

The SoCalPoFest is an annual poetry festival that relocates each year to a different Southern California community. Dedicated to preserving the diversity of voices within SoCal communities, this diversity extends across cultural lines and lines related to schools of poetic thought. Kaya Press is excited to support this event by participating in the SoCal Literary […]

Come Visit the City of the Future

Sesshu Foster’s much-anticipated new poetry collection, City of the Future, will be officially released by Kaya Press on May 1, 2018, but available for pre-order now. Foster will be making many appearances this Spring in support of the book in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and San Diego. Stay tuned for more events! Sesshu […]