A third generation Japanese-American whose Fresno roots went back to the beginning of the 20th century, Lawson and his family were sent to WW II relocation camps when he was four. Finding that he didn’t quite know where he fit in when he came out of the camps after the war, he gravitated toward the black and Chicano groups in his high school. He also gravitated toward their music, and by the time he went to Fresno State, he had taken up the jazz string bass. The music, repetition, rhythm, spontaneity and disciplined freedom of jazz infuse all aspects of his life – but especially his writing.
It was a natural step from the rhythm of the bass to the rhythm of poetry, at the behest of poet and professor Phil Levine. Lawson started writing and publishing, attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, and got an MFA from the University of Oregon. He is Professor Emeritus of Southern Oregon University and former Oregon Poet Laureate 2006.
Bio excerpt provided courtesy of George Mason and Salli Slaughter of The Author’s Road. Lawson’s book titles, prizes awarded, and video interview are available on their website. Photo credit: Salli Slaughter.