W. Todd Kaneko


W. Todd Kaneko is the author of This is How the Bone Sings (Black Lawrence Press 2020) and The Dead Wrestler Elegies, which will be rereleased as a second edition by New Michigan Press in 2021. He is co-author with Amorak Huey of Poetry: A Writers’ Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic 2018), and Slash / Slash, winner of the 2020 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest. His poems, essays, and stories can be seen in Poetry, Alaskan Quarterly Review, Los Angeles Review, The Normal School, Hobart, [PANK], Blackbird, The Rumpus, Song of the Owashtanong: Grand Rapids Poetry in the 21st Century, Bring the Noise: The Best Pop Culture Essays from Barrelhouse Magazine, Best Small Fictions 2017 and 2018, and many other journals and anthologies. He holds degrees from Arizona State University (MFA, Creative Writing) and the University of Washington (BA, English). A Kundiman fellow, his work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Seattle, he is currently an Associate Professor in the Writing Department at Grand Valley State University and lives with his family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Source

Elegy for Bruce Lee

Somewhere in the dark sky is a beautiful fight,

one-two, cha cha chá—all our knuckles rapping


against the stars’ edges for the dancing master,

for a flying sidekick to our bodies’ centers.


My father called you Little Dragon Lee, told me

how you swiveled your hips across the floor—


three-four, cha cha chá—then you both wrote

love poems for a girl in your English class.


I practiced throwing roundhouse kicks as a boy,

feet aimed at my reflection in store windows,


at street signs, at parked cars, everything I knew

I could break. Now, my feet cannot leave


the ground, and I write love poems for the dead.

The last time I watched Enter the Dragon,


I imagined it was my father emerging victorious

from the hall of mirrors, my father hustling


on the dance floor, because the last time

I saw my father, he had been waiting for me


the whole day in the morgue. Hold me,

he said, and I did until his body stopped


acting like it was alive. There is no fight

where there is no spark, no wretched cock crow


in the dark, just this cha cha chá—grief is a fist

and a promise to hurt someone. Just give it


an inch between knuckle and breastbone.

It will punch through everyone.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Childhood & Coming of Age

Death & Loss


Poetic Form

Pop Culture

Literary Devices:


two lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, that form a unit


a meditation on death, often in thoughtful mourning lamentation

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic