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community Archives - erica hiroko isomura

Dead Poets Reading: Mary Oliver

Isabella Wang from the Dead Poets Reading series invited me to contribute to their covid pivot of this in-person reading series. I filmed a reading from Mary Oliver’s “New and Selected Poems, Volume 1” in my bedroom a couple months ago.

This reading includes “Some Questions You Might Ask,” “Sunrise,” and the infamous “Wild Geese.”

To be honest, reading poetry aloud from bed is still a mood.

Linked here if you would like to enjoy!

text reads Dead Poets Reading Series in a serif font

On March 15, 2020, the Dead Poets Reading Series was cancelled due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, in order to protect the safety and well-being of readers, series organizers, and audience members. But — that doesn’t mean the poetry can’t continue. The video poem, where each poet is asked to share a video of themselves reading, was started by rob mclennan. To keep the sense of community running, and to show our appreciation for audiences like you, organizers decided to bring the Dead Poets Reading Series online. Each poet is invited to honour the works of one dead poet of their choice.

Lessons from I-Hotel with Karen Tei Yamashita

A reading and conversation on a San Francisco SRO with Karen Tei Yamashita

Friday, November 8 from 8-10pm 
InterUrban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings, entrance on Carrall

Authors Karen Tei Yamashita and Erica Isomura discuss lessons and stories from I Hotel (Coffee House press, 2010) through the context of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood in which low-income, racialized, and stigmatized residents struggle for justice everyday. In a society increasingly divided by race, class, and beyond, what lessons can we take away from Yamashita’s work?

The conversation and reading will be followed with a dialogue featuring members from SRO Collaborative and Right to Remain, and will be open to questions from the audience.

This event is supported by the Powell Street Festival Society as part of the Heart of the City Festival

Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of seven books, including I Hotel, finalist for the National Book Award, and most recently, Letters to Memory, all published by Coffee House Press. Recipient of the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature and a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellowship, she is Professor Emerita of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Word Vancouver 2019

Looking forward to reading at Word Vancouver’s Magazine Stage at the Vancouver Public Library on Sunday, September 29, 2019 alongside Shashi Bhat, Jane Hamilton Silcott, and Joseph Onodi.

Word Vancouver poster with headshots of writers Joseph Onodi and erica hiroko

Sunday, September 29, 2019, 2:45pm
Readings from emerging and established authors reading side by side all of whom have been published in a variety of magazines.

Thank you to subTerrain magazine and SFU’s emerge anthology for hosting this event.


43rd annual Powell Street Festival

The 43rd annual Powell Street Festival is here! Catch me at the Firehall Theatre on Saturday, August 3. 

re-pronunciation: new works by Yonsei women writing

Saturday, 5:00pm-5:30pm, Firehall Theatre
Erica Hiroko Isomura, Carolyn Nakagawa, and Laura Fukumoto write in and around intersections of contemporary politics, solidarity with marginalized communities, and surviving as millennials in Vancouver. In this live reading, they will share distinct experiences of Japanese Canadian identity through new works of poetry and creative non-fiction.


For us, by us

ensoku 2019 brought young Japanese Canadians and Americans together in unprecedented Vancouver cultural event

photos by Kayla Isomura

Over the May long weekend, 40 young-ish Japanese Canadians, Japanese Americans, and their friends came together to build community and explore our shared heritage and identity. What started as an idea to organize a regional young people’s conference became an independently organized “un-conference.” 

This community gathering welcomed local attendees from across the Lower Mainland and out-of-town visitors from Canadian cities including Victoria, Kamloops, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa. This was truly an international event with Japanese American participants travelling from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts! 

The full weekend event included a gyoza-making workshop, an open mic with poetry and storytelling, dialogues on present-day Japanese Canadian experiences (connecting to culture, TLGBQ+ and multi-racial identities), an intergenerational community lunch, a stop-motion animation workshop, cross-cultural walking tour of Strathcona, and optional day trips to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Steveston, and Tashme. Lots of fun was had and many new meaningful relationships were built.

Participants shared the following about their experiences at ensoku: 

“ensoku reinforced the importance of storytelling and creative expression for our community, which I’m coming to see as key.”

“There’s a lot of younger Japanese-Canadians who are interested in connecting (with each other and with their history and culture).”

“We need each other and are richer for having this community.”

“I am now hoping to find the Nikkei community within my own city and province.”

As organizers, we were committed to making this event financially accessible. Because of the support of so many organizations and individuals, we were able to provide subsidies for participants to attend and billets for out-of-town guests. 

An event like ensoku is one-of-a-kind. While we have no current plans to turn this into an annual event, participants from other cities have expressed interest in organizing an event like this in their home cities of Regina, Ottawa, Seattle, and Toronto. 

We will definitely take these memories and experiences forward into organizing new gatherings and community initiatives in the future. 

On behalf of the organizing committee, our sincerest thanks to everyone who attended, volunteered, and donated goods or cash to made this event possible. 


ensoku organizers
Kayla Isomura, Erica Isomura, Davin Shikaze, Carolyn Nakagawa, Reiko Pleau, & Lisa Uyeda

Please see The Bulletin for a full list of thank yous and photos from ensoku 2019. 


ensoku 2019

Join me on May 18-19th, 2019 for ensoku (“field trip”), a gathering for young-ish Japanese Canadians*. Optional activities will be organized on May 17th and 20th. 

This event takes place on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations. As organizers of this gathering, our mission is to create a space for individuals who identify as having Japanese ancestry to connect, socialize, and have fun. The themes are simple:

🍣 EAT: Participate in a gyoza-making workshop and a delicious dinner at Hapa Izakaya
💬 SHARE: Meet new people and discuss issues that matter such as our mixed-, multi-racial, and/or queer identities, culture, community, and more
🎏 LEARN: Revisit history on a cultural tour of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside
🎨 MAKE: Create art with interdisciplinary artists from our community

*Inclusive of anyone of Japanese ancestry, and suggested for folks up to 40 years old

This event is organized by kikiai collaborative, a grassroots network of individuals interested in the history, politics, arts and culture of the Japanese Canadian/Nikkei community.

“Kikiai” (聴き合い) is a Japanese word meaning “listening to each other.” This word represents our group’s philosophy of coming together, mutually supporting, and listening to one another as equals, while also giving a nod to our Japanese Canadian heritage and community links.

Learn more about ensoku here.

Perspectives anti-racism arts festival

If you’re looking for a rad literary event to check out, I will be reading at this poetry night as part of the Perspectives: Anti-Racism Arts Festival at the new Collingwood Neighbourhood House Annex (Boundary x Vanness) on Friday, February 15, 2019.

It’s free to attend.

Looking forward to sharing some new work and hearing from other amazing poets including Jo Billows, Niigaani Binesi, Jane Shi, jaye simpson, and Renée Sarojini Saklikar.

ACAM Dialogues, Mental Health in Asian Canadian Communities

Catch me sharing some poetry at this upcoming event alongside sweet humans and poets, Sam Stouten and Steffi Tad-y. This event is free and lunch is included.

ACAM Dialogues: Afternoon Art & Poetry Reading

On Thurs. November 15, join us for an afternoon of arts and crafts, a guided creative letter-writing activity, and poetry readings featuring local artists! Free lunch and art supplies provided with registration.

Featured poets:
Sam Stouten
Steffi Tad-y
Erica Hiroko

This event is a continuation of the ACAM Dialogues: Mental Health in Asian Canadian Communities. We invite all to attend, while being mindful of what it means to engage in a space of respectful and conscientious dialogue.

This project is generously supported by the Equity Enhancement Fund by the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office.

Please RSVP:

Space is limited due to venue capacity.

powell street fest x pride weekend

Another successful Powell Street Festival has come and gone and I had so much fun!!

This year was my first time participating as an artist. I joined Emi Sasagawa, Akira Imai, and Kanon Hewitt for “Kids These Days,” a panel discussion featuring emerging queer Nikkei artists, where we talked about why we create art, representation, family, and defying cultural norms and expectations.

I also got to witness the strength of all-women taiko ensemble Jodaiko, cheer on my sister and my partner in the women’s sumo tournament, eat a ton of delicious food (#okonomiyaki, #teamgyoza) , listen to community members share stories in my sister (Kayla Isomura)’s super packed Suitcase Project event at the language school, chill with my qt babes, see family, and smack one of John Endo Greenaway’s taiko drums.

Also, the Tonari Gumi Gardeners sold 150 copies of Our Edible Roots!!! So amazing. If you missed that, Tonari Gumi Gardeners will still have this book for sale in the Tonari Gumi gift shop (42 W. 8th Ave, Vancouver), for order online, and at the official launch party this Fall. See my post listing other upcoming events where you can purchase this book.

Thank you to everyone involved this year ~ festival staff, volunteers, supporters, artists, vendors, community groups ~ for such wholesome & intergenerational fun times.

Our Edible Roots: The Japanese Canadian Kitchen Garden

I’m excited to announce that Our Edible Roots, a book I have spent the past year working on with Tonari Gumi Gardeners, will soon be available!

Our Edible Roots: The Japanese Canadian Kitchen Garden is a cumulation of Japanese Canadian history and culinary identity since before the Second World War until today. This book features interviews, stories, recipes, and growing tips from local Japanese Canadian farmers, gardeners, elders, youth, and other contributors.

This book showcases growing and foraging tips and stories from seasoned gardeners with 40 delicious recipes highlighting these unique Japanese vegetables. Guides to using Japanese ingredients and methods for traditional culinary techniques are also included. As contributor Makiko Suzuki says, “perhaps the most important highlight is the telling of the Japanese Canadian experience through stories and interviews with community elders.”

We invite you to celebrate these stories and pick up a copy of the book for yourself at the following upcoming (and free!) events…

You can also purchase this book online or find copies for sale at the Tonari Gumi gift shop, Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, West Coast Seeds garden shop, and Gulf of Georgia Cannery. If you would like to inquire about purchasing bulk orders at a reduced price, please email

This was an incredible community project driven by the passion and commitment of countless volunteers. All book sales proceeds will support the seniors lunch program at Tonari Gumi Japanese Community Volunteers Association.