Mark Toyama

Region: BC Vancouver
Nisei |


Mark Toyama was a Nisei writer who published several popular works in The New Canadian prior to his early death. He was perhaps best known for his poem “powell st,” first published in The New Canadian in 1940 and then reprinted in 1942 in the midst of the Japanese Canadian community’s forced removal from that area. Toyama also contributed short stories to the paper, and was a member of the Nisei Scribbler’s Circle, a group of young aspiring writers in Vancouver from 1940-1942. During the forced removal period, Toyama lived in New Denver, where he worked as an X-Ray technician for the tuberculosis sanatorium. He passed away there in 1946.

powell st, by mark n. toyama

(transcribed from The New Canadian, Vol. III no. 20, May 15, 1940)


powell st knows

all about those

who limp, run, stagger or walk

crisscross, stop and talk

for echoes of laughter

whispers of pain

odor of burnt toast

exotic scent of chow mein

dissolve into the street in midnight rain

that’s how

powell st knows


powell st knows

and loves the light skip

of children as they trip

to school and their studies

a lovely age

when yellow and white are buddies

powell st knows


powell st knows

of a youth in a room

dark, dreary and dank

a two by four tomb

and can tell by his weakening tread

that god again forgot

his daily bread

powell st knows


powell st knows

and shudders and hates

dwellers by satan’s gates

the reeling squaw in drunked stupor falls

and tries to beat

her fists to a pulp

on the wet concrete

and sobs

powell st knows


powell st knows

it is fifth avenue

main street wall street and park avenue


as the centre of a social scheme

longs to be the nucleus of a grander dream

and yet

yoshio and yaeko’s fanciful feet

truck on down a wondering street

light fantastic

to a jitterbug beat