The Last Incantations

Trade Paper – $16.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-5237-3
Publication Date
March 2014
Page Count
88 pages
Trim Size
6.125 x 8.5

The Last Incantations

David Mura

The personal, historical, and artistic are all in dialogue in David Mura’s daring new collection, The Last Incantations. In a variety of poetic modes, Mura harmonizes and contrasts multiple voices to form a powerful meditation. Certain poems speak from his experiences as a third-generation Japanese American and his family’s struggles to prove their "Americanness." Others speak from the intersections of our multiracial society—an Asian teenager in love with a Somali Muslim girl, an apostrophe to Richard Pryor, poems about a Palestinian American friend, Abu Ghraib, the hapa sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The result is a sustained multifoliate poetry, bursting with elegance, heartache, and truth.
About the Author

David Mura is a Japanese American poet, novelist, memoirist, and critic. His most recent book is his novel, Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire (2008). His poetry books are Angels for the Burning (2004); The Colors of Desire (1995), which won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award; and After We Lost Our Way (1989), which won a National Poetry Series Contest. His Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei (1991) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won PEN Oakland’s Josephine Miles Book Award. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, and Ploughshares.


The Last Incantations is a rich, generous book peopled with an energetic, multicultural hood of family and friends, rambunctious youths, fierce ancestors, and a red-carpet array of dead and living poets. Mura’s sampling of forms and styles is just as polyvocal and multitudinous—from traditional fully rhymed and metered songs, to engaging blank verse narratives, to exuberant jazz riffing. It is a spirited ride, not to be missed.”—Marilyn Chin

“David Mura is a maestro of illumination and nuance, an unrivaled craftsman of stanzas that root themselves in music while holding tight to an unflinching narrative. These poems are hallmarks of fervent witness, the work of a bold and unapologetic writer at the height of his powers.”—Patricia Smith

“These poems are so clear in their intensities that one must squint to enter them, as when trying to sustain a look at the sun. The stupor that fogs our daily lives grows out of the impulse to avoid the noise of personal memory, broken history, of all the small yearnings left unfulfilled. The Last Incantations draws us into this jagged music with courage and persistent grace. This book reminds me of how some poems can save us.”—Tim Seibles

"The history that haunts Mura’s poetry is one of intersections, shared legacies of violence, confinement and brutality…His form mirrors the complexity of his subjects; he mixes poetry and prose, blending biography, cultural criticism and memoir…This makes for emotionally and intellectually engaging work that tasks he reader to reconsider conceptions of race." —The Star Tribune