Demos: An American Multitude

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UPC: 9781571315250
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Authors: Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley
  • Publisher : Milkweed Editions (March 9, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 96 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 157131525X
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1571315250

From the intersection of Onondaga, Japanese, Cuban, and Appalachian cultures, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s newest collection arrives brimming with personal and political histories.

“‘You tell me how I was born what I am,’” demands Naka-Hasebe Kingsley―of himself, of the reader, of the world. The poems of Dēmos: An American Multitude seek answers in the Haudenosaunee story of The Lake and Her children; in the scope of a .243 aimed at a pregnant doe; in the Dōgen poem jotted on a napkin by his obaasan; in a flag burning in a church parking lot. Here, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley places multiracial displacement, bridging disparate experiences with taut, percussive language that will leave readers breathless.

With astonishing formal range, Dēmos also documents the intolerance that dominates American society. What can we learn from mapping the genealogy of a violent and loud collective? How deeply do anger, violence, and oppression run in the blood? From adapted Punnett squares to Biblical epigraphs to the ghastly comment section of a local news website, Dēmos diagrams surviving America as an other-ed American―and it refuses to flinch from the forces that would see that multitude erased.

Dēmos is a resonant proclamation of identity and endurance from one of the most intriguing new voices in American letters―a voice singing “long on America as One / body but many parts.”


"In a superbly inventive collection, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley's work explores living under the dominance of whiteness in America and the history of violence, particularly against Native communities. These poems ask: is racial violence in this country's DNA? How far will it go, how long will this go on? It is a bold inquisition into the damage that has been done, accomplished with creative risk-taking." ―Electric Literature, "Most Anticipated Poetry of 2021"

"Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley brings together Onondaga, Japanese, Cuban, and Appalachian cultures to investigate multiracial dislocation, American intolerance, and the question we all ask―who am I?―int he teeming Dēmos: An American Multitude." ―Library Journal

"With language as his pigment, with poetic form as his palette knives, Kingsley creates layer upon intimate layer as he uncovers multitudinous selves, simultaneously exploring just who is this WE in this 'We the People.'" ―River Heron Review

“Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s book Dēmos is a powerhouse collection of poems by a powerhouse poet. Dēmos showcases the range of the poet―one who can write lullaby lyrics and in the very next poem mold words out of fire. The energy in these poems is electric as Naka-Hasebe Kingsley explores and condemns the many injustices towards Native Americans and other marginalized communities throughout our short history. Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s poems are unflinching, unrelenting, disarming, and brilliant in their range, form, and language. This is a necessary book of ferocity and strength during a challenging time.”―Victoria Chang

“How do you secure a sense of self and home when those things are bloodied? In poems of visionary protest and tender restoration, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s Dēmos proposes answers to that distinctly American question. In Dēmos, place and body are like palimpsests inscribed over and over again by the violence of history and the violence of contemporary racial brutality. As one poem laments, ‘I was born what I am in ash.’ And yet, out of a scorched and brindled self, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley presents a lyric voice that is as powerful as any we now have in our poetry.”―Rick Barot

“These poems are like found object sculptures―but the rivets are words, wordplay, and the invention. From Punnett squares as form to leftovers as metaphor for tri-racial identity, Benjamín Naka-Hasbey Kingsley presents a sensibility born out of multiple histories of oppression that asserts survival and demands understanding.”―Heid E. Erdrich

Praise for Colonize Me

“Naka-Hasebe Kingsley has an athlete’s feel for moving through poems. Just as the reader settles into an image, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley pivots and plots a new course. In the process we learn to let go of our assumptions about who this poet might be, and instead read in awe at the play. These poems play with such fervor that every reading reveals another detail, another escape hatch Naka-Hasebe Kingsley has left for us to find. I love these poems and their many voices. I love their contradictions. I love their energy. Read Colonize Me and then read it again.”―José Olivarez

“Naka-Hasebe Kingsley has contagious energy that’s never exhausting, on display . . . even when the subject matter is very painful. . . . One way to live with heartache is to force oneself to make art out of it (as opposed to sloppy catharsis that’s helpful to the author but not to the cause of good), and this he does with piercing finesse. . . . Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is no coward and Colonize Me is an artistic, emotional, and political triumph.”―Barbara Berman

Colonize Me is a book to savor and share, a book with much to teach about how the past might be made into something capable of enduring the forces―capitalism, racism, state violence―that seek to exploit, to erase, to iron out the folds of identity that come together, no matter how untidily, to form a sense of self. What emerges is a necessary sort of hope for all who would do the hard work of building communities―in our classrooms, in our neighborhoods, in our homes―amid daily reminders that such forces remain as strong as ever.”―Brian Simoneau

Praise for Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot

“At turns, mixing and remixing form, lineage, and landscape, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s debut unveils a world of tender witness, beginning with the street, moving through history, and ending with reclamation of wild possibility.”―Cathy Linh Che

About the Author

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley belongs to the Onondaga Nation of Indigenous Americans in New York. He is the author of Colonize Me and Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot, winners and finalists of over a dozen awards. Affrilachian poet and Kundiman alum, Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is recipient of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Tickner Fellowships. His work has appeared in numerous publications such as The BreakBeat Poets: LatiNEXTNative Voices: Honoring Indigenous PoetryGeorgia ReviewKenyon ReviewOxford AmericanPoetry, and Tin House. He is an assistant professor of poetry and nonfiction in Old Dominion University’s MFA program.