Common Grace


“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, three-time United States Poet Laureate

“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

“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

“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

“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

Here is the first major collection from poet-painter Aaron Caycedo-Kimura: a deft, deeply felt triptych that opens with his life as an artist, then delves into the inherited trauma within his Japanese American family, and finally ends on the close bond between him and his wife. Now available for preorder at Beacon Press, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble,, and Amazon.

Part One, “Soul Sauce,” takes us from his childhood encounter with an inkwell at Roseland Elementary in 1969 to his outdoor easel perched on Long Island Sound. Part Two, “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 while also summoning up his father’s time in the American internment camps of WWII and his mother’s memories of the firebombing of Tokyo. Part Three, “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 and subtle, but never quiet.

Special Thanks from the Author:

Heartfelt and endless thanks to Catherine Tung for her editorial insight, dedication, and kindness in shaping my manuscript into Common Grace; the entire Beacon Press team for their excellence and professionalism; Matthew Thorburn, without whom this book would not exist; Robert Pinsky, Gail Mazur, and Karl Kirchwey for all they taught me in Boston University’s MFA Creative Writing Program, their generosity, and help with so many of the poems that came from my MFA thesis; my MFA cohort who workshopped many of those poems; Xuefei Jin for his kindness, encouragement, and for being instrumental in bringing this book into the world; Jennifer Franklin, Margo Taft Stever, and Julie Danho of Slapering Hol Press, for helping me fine tune the poems that also appear in my chapbook Ubasute; Garrett Phelan and his workshop participants for their feedback on some of the poems; Pat Mottola, whose encouragement kept me going at the beginning of my poetry journey and who remains one of my biggest supporters; and to my wife, Luisa—my first reader, the one who started us on this poetry journey, and who makes all that I do possible.



Ubasute won the 2020 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition and can be purchased directly from Slapering Hol Press.

“At the lucid depths of loss, as elemental as the Greek tragedies but on a personal scale and in an even tone of voice, Aaron Caycedo- Kimura’s poems in Ubasute are detailed, elegiac meditations within a particular American family. This compact, artful book evokes the eternal rhythms of grief and memory, loss and gratitude, including the evil of internment camps and the dignity of a suburban garden. Here is the restorative clarity of art.”

—Robert Pinsky, three-time United States Poet Laureate

“In Japanese folklore, ubasute is the act of carrying an elderly parent up a mountain and leaving the person there to die. In Aaron Caycedo- Kimura’s beautiful, moving debut collection, Ubasute, the poet carries his mother and father out of memory and onto the page, but he does not set them down or let them go. He holds his parents close so we can see and hear them—as a boy in an American concentration camp, as a girl surviving the firebombing of Tokyo, as newlyweds, suburban parents, and too soon a dying father, a widow slipping away. In these clear-eyed, open-hearted, unforgettable poems, Caycedo-Kimura invites us to join him as he walks once more behind his aging parents ‘with an outstretched arm / as if to give a blessing.'”

—Matthew Thorburn, author of The Grace of Distance

Ubasute can also be purchased in a box set here along with two other award-winning chapbooks: The Scottish Cafe by Susana H. Case and They Become Stars by Liz Marlow.

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