Specialty: Literary Arts
Born to a Japanese mother and a farm-boy father who fought for the U.S. in WWII, it was impossible for me to have an ordinary life. Through a strange twist of fate, I was raised by my father’s relatives and brought up in an Appalachian “holy roller” church by people who never went past eighth grade, had no indoor bathroom, no TV, and were in the Ku Klux Klan.
Literature was my escape, pathways to the world outside of that tiny enclave. In adolescence, I began writing poetry and searching for my severed Asian root. In ninth grade my first poem was published in a national student magazine. A public school teacher noticed, and encouraged my writing.
The hardships of my childhood carved out a large space of compassion in me. My writing was the magic gift that became the medicine I needed, and could share.
My poems have two voices: one stark like that of my maternal ancestors, with perhaps as much said in the unspoken spaces between as in the lines themselves; another, the voice of a holiness preacher, building rhythmic stanzas to crescendo. Both are authentically mine: one woman’s hymns of humanity, justice, and ultimately, hope.
Mary Oishi is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me (West End Press, 2011) and is one of twelve U.S. poets in 12 Poetas: Antologia De Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses (2017), a project of the Mexican Ministry of Culture. She is the co-author, with her daughter, Aja Oishi, of Rock Paper Scissors (Swimming with Elephants Press, 2018).
Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology, Looking Back to Place, Sinister Wisdom, and other print and digital publications.
Oishi is a public radio personality since 1996, most at KUNM-FM Albuquerque, where she hosts The Blues Show.