Born in Fresno, California, Lawson Inada as a child spent World War II in a concentration camp with his family. In a period of racist hysteria, constitutional guarantees were set aside, and Japanese Americans were interned for the duration of the war. He would later write of the experience in Before the War: Poems as They Happened (1971). Lawson was then educated at Berkeley and Fresno State College, followed by studies in creative writing at the University of Iowa and the University of Oregon. He teaches at Southern Oregon State College. While maintaining the strong political perspective of Before the War, he has also taken up other subjects, as "Listening Images" and its epigrammatic portraits of jazz artists suggest.