It’s now a good solid month or two into the new academic year, and just in time to get ahead of that mid-semester slump, the fourth issue of Lumen is dropping on Friday! Following up on Lumen No. 3, in which Iris shared some of her favorite middle-grade and YA books for young APA readers, in Lumen No. 4, Mia writes about books for younger children that she has enjoyed reading and sharing with her family. Here’s a sneak preview of some of her thoughts on the matter:
”It’s a privilege to raise children in a literary landscape that includes such a wealth of talented APA children’s authors. . . . As a parent, I want nothing more than for my children to read books that enrich the imagination, that broaden their capacities for empathy, and that expand their worlds to include unfamiliar places and ways of living, while also affirming their lived experiences and the experiences of those around them. “
If you’re not already subscribed to Lumen, you’re in luck! Not only are there four more days to subscribe before the newsletter hits inboxes this Friday, October 5th, but we are also celebrating by randomly giving away a copy of Mia’s new book, Isako Isako, to one of our subscribers. All you have to do to enter is the following:
Be subscribed to Lumen by 11:59 pm PDT on Thursday, October 4th. (If you’re not yet a subscriber, you’ll need to sign up first, but existing subscribers are also eligible to enter!)
Leave us a comment on this blog post with your name and the title of a contemporary kids’ or teen book by an APA author that you wish you’d had as a kid. (It can be a picture book, an early reader book, a middle-grade book, or YA book of any genre.) [UPDATE on 10/4/18: We’re now expanding the giveaway to our social accounts, too! See today’s posts on our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook accounts for instructions specific to each. Lumen subscribers can enter more than once, on more than one platform (as well as on the blog)—so fire away! We look forward to hearing from you.]
Lumen subscribers may enter as many times as they like—each new comment that is left with a book title will count as one entry (though the same person may not repeat the same book’s title for more than one entry). After the giveaway closes, we’ll randomly choose one winner amongst the entries and will get in touch via the email address with which the winner is subscribed to Lumen.
[UPDATE on 10/5/18: Congratulations to Rachelle Cruz, our randomly chosen giveaway winner! Rachelle shared with us on Instagram that she wishes she’d had Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters when she was a kid. Thanks for the recommendation, Rachelle—we can’t wait to check out this spooky, October-appropriate tale. We’ll be in touch soon to coordinate sending you your prize copy of Isako Isako.]
We hope you’ll discover a new title or two to share with your favorite little ones in Lumen No. 4. In the meantime, we look forward to hearing about the books you wish you’d had when you were a kid!
This fall, for the first time ever, we’ve been privileged to welcome an editorial intern onto the Lantern Review team.Irene Hsu is an emerging Bay Area poet with an impressive resumé, including an English degree from Stanford,past internships at Graywolf and the Loft Literary Center, reporting experience for The New Republic, and publication credits in AAWW’s The Margins and on the Loft’s blog, Writers’ Block.In addition to her editorial duties in helping to run the magazine, Irene has been managing our Twitter account, and she’ll also be contributing to our blog from time to time. (You might have seen her first blog post for us—a roundup of fall APA poetry collections—last week.) We feel extremely blessed to have Irene’s talent, passion, and sense of vision on board, and because you’ll likely be hearing a lot from her over the course of the next several months, we thought that it would be fun to help you get to know her with a little Q&A. Read on to find out how a Gabrielle Calvocoressi collection shaped her earliest forays into poetry, the name of the song that she’d love to perform in an “Aggretsuko-style” karaoke showdown—and more.
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LANTERN REVIEW: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you come to poetry?
IRENE HSU: I thank the stars for one generous and intelligent mentor, Teresa Kim, who sent off my high school self with Gabrielle Calvocoressi’s The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart. This collection forever shaped my understanding of poetry as a place for observation and a vehicle for time travel. Like many high-functioning kids, I grew up with a misguided sense that I was constantly running out of time to get from point A to B—without quite knowing where I was going, where I was coming from, and what I was allowing myself to fall into. In a significant way, poetry rescued me. Reading and writing poetry gave me a space to be more thoughtful, critical, and imaginative. It gave me permission to return and refashion. In college, Solmaz Sharif, Essy Stone, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Kai Carlson-Wee introduced me to other writers like Tracy K. Smith, Sharon Olds, Aracelis Girmay, Terrance Hayes, among others, who reconfigure sight, breath, and meaning to slow down and interrogate drawn boundaries. When I understood there was this literary ecosystem, I wanted to be a part of it, to learn how it ticked, and to tend to the corners that made transformative reading and profound writing possible.
LR: What obsessions drive your writing?
IH: Right now, this quote from Jenny Zhang: “Why doesn’t anyone consider the fact that when you are a second-generation immigrant and you speak this very specific mixture of Chinese and English, that’s also a dying language? After I die, my children, if I have children, they won’t speak that blend of Chinese and English.” I’ve been thinking about what it means to document and celebrate this fleeting and unstable space of bilingualism. It’s not simply a question of vocabulary, but also of grammatical nuance and non-standard accent that disappear because they are eradicated and, if not, looked down upon. I’ve been trying to cherish the fact that, long before I myself knew, my tongue and my mouth knew that they were not beholden to any one dialect or place.
LR: What are your favorite poets, poems, or poetry collections of the moment?
IH: I find myself returning to poems that also double as stories vignettes, essays, and even films. Sally Wen Mao’s [short story] “Beasts of the Chase,” Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Yanyi’s poems from The Year of Blue Water, Danez Smith’s “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” Richard Siken’s “You Are Jeff”—poems that aren’t afraid to challenge narrative. Poems that use rhythm, word choice, image, and timing to rewrite and overwrite the dominant logics that shape the most intimate of moments.
LR: Go-to karaoke song?
IH: At the moment, Rina Sawayama’s entire album RINA. But I especially would be down for an Aggretsuko-style showdown with the daredevil power pop anthem “Take Me As I Am.”
LR: In an ideal world, where do you envision the future of Asian American poetry ten years from now?
IH: I imagine Asian American poetry not just as an ever-growing field of profound, creative works, but also as a robust system of support and cycle of mentorship for growing writers and readers. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have mentors who, at crucial times in my life, have willingly taken me under their wings, coached my writing, and encouraged a diverse reading diet. I want this for anyone who even remotely considers making writing and reading a significant chunk of their life. I want there to be a space for everyone who wants to be a part of this, wherever they are—in a city, in a suburb, in a small town.
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We hope you’ll join us in warmly welcoming Irene to the LR team. We are so excited to be working with her this season and can’t wait for you to read more from her in the months to come. For more about Irene and to read some of her writing, visit her website, irnhs.squarespace.com.
As summer comes to a close, we wanted to alert you to a number of exciting collections by Asian American poets that are forthcoming this fall. These poems are both luminous vessels of time travel and crucial artifacts of our milieu. They are guides that point out the boundaries between worlds and identities and—with a sleight of hand—expose a hidden latch, revealing unseen horizons. We hope these poets’ offerings of sight, memory, and sound will help to sustain you this autumn. May they inspire you to continued resistance and resilience.
Emily Jungmin Yoon’s collection is a persistent and lucid study of sexual violence, colonization, and war. Over and over, Yoon deploys language, documents its destruction. She returns to mourn; she collects the remains. At the heart of her project is “Testimony,” a section that gathers the stories of Korean women who survived Japanese occupation. In another sequence, “An Ordinary Misfortune,” the speaker asks, “How could I put a child in a haunted place.” This question resounds throughout the pages of her collection, relentless, resilient, and shapeshifting as Yoon’s lyric “I.”
Sardonic and erotic, Monica Ferrell’s second collection reads like a tête-à-tête gone rogue. Given voice, brides and beloveds come alive, unbraiding their limbs from Flaubert, Duchamp, and Tolstoy. Once stripped bare, now decked in furs, the women of Ferrell’s poems stalk and stomp, recognizing the bridegroom’s cry for what it is: “a lost boat’s foghorn bleating.” You Darling Thing arranges the savage dance of courtship, only to split the social contract of marriage: “A woman alone is a cave of violets, / A man alone a squirming rat, who squeaks.”
The Only Country Was the Color of My Skin knits poetry with prose, Tokyo with Manzanar. Probing an elusive Japanese American identity and reaching deep into traditional Japanese poetic forms, past LR contributor Hellen writes boldly, “I have a mouth to tell my story.” The result is a hybrid collection that acts as star chart for the present and enacts a communion with the past.
Isako Isako by Mia Ayumi Malhotra (Alice James Books, Sept 2018)
We’re beside ourselves with excitement for our very own founding editor Mia Ayumi Malhotra, whose first collection just hit shelves yesterday! Inspired by the stories of Malhotra’s own grandmother and great-grandmother, Isako Isako grapples with Japanese incarceration and American occupation, as well as mass displacement and transnational migration.Four generations of women reach across lost decades and burning cities, and they convene in the poems to brush palms, slip tissues, and share war rations. When her speaker calls out, “Isako Isako are you leaving me. How much longer Isako will you remember me,” Malhotra sets forth a yearning that knows no bounds—after all, as the poems remind us, survival is nothing without remembrance.
The Bindery in San Francisco will be hosting a launch event for Isako Isako this evening, September 5, where the author will be joined by Jennifer S. Cheng (author of Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems) as well as experimental improv drummer Paul Sakai. If you’re local to the Bay Area, we hope you’ll consider coming out to celebrate our Mia with us!
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In this season of harvest, what collections are on your reading list? Which poets and what images do you find yourself returning to? Share them with us in the comments or let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).
Happy Monday, Lantern Review community! This morning, we’re coming at you with a huge piece of news: as of today, we’re officially knocking the dust off the magazine and are finally (yes, finally!) opening our doors to submissions for our 2019 season. We can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to announce this; it’s our first open reading period in a really long time.
We know this is a development for which many of you have been patiently waiting, so before we say anything else, we’d like to take a moment to thank you—both for your patience and for your continued belief in us and in our work. It’s been your confidence in our mission and your encouragement that has continued to sustain us in these past few years while we’ve been slowly retooling our editorial focus and workflow. And while we can’t say that we’ve got everything figured out (because—let’s face it—we haven’t), we’ve come to realize that more than anything else, it’s the magazine whose absence everyone (including us) has felt the most. The one question that so many of you have faithfully, persistently continued to ask us—at readings, at conferences, at every event we’ve been to in the past four years—has always been this: “When are you going to start taking submissions again?”
Well, we’ve been listening. And we hear you. So today, we’re thrilled to be taking that first step toward bringing the magazine back. I think we can all agree that it’s about time.
Here are the logistical details. Our fall 2018 reading period officially opens today and will run until November 30, 2018. As in the past, we are looking for original poetry and new translations in a wide variety of voices and styles. And we are also eager to receive submissions of visual art and photography. To get a feel for the type of work we like, we suggest that you take a look at our archives—especially our most recent two issues (issue five and issue six).
One more important detail: In the past, we solely accepted submissions through our own, proprietary portal; however, in keeping with current digital practices in the literary world, we’ve decided to adopt Submittable as our new submissions platform going forward. The “Submit” links on our main site and blog will now take you to our Submittable page, where you can find both our guidelines and forms with which to submit your poetry, translations, and artwork. For the first time ever, you’ll also be able to better track your manuscript through our screening process—and we can now even accept multiple files at once for art submissions.
Whether you’re a past contributor or you’ve never submitted to us before, we hope that you’ll consider sending us a poem or two! And just in case you might still be on the fence, here are a few compelling reasons why we think you should send us your work:
Reason #1: It’s free!
We don’t like the idea of missing out on exciting new poetry and artwork just because of a submission fee, so you won’t have to pay to send us your work. Submitting to the magazine during our open reading period is completely free.
Reason #2: We love featuring newer voices alongside more established ones.
We’ve been blessed to have our pages graced by the likes of literary powerhouses like Oliver de la Paz, Amy Uyematsu, Luisa Igloria, Barbara Jane Reyes (among others!) in the past. But we’ve also enjoyed getting to publish emerging writers’ work—Ocean Vuong, for example, is highly successful today, but when we first published his work, he was still several years away from his first full-length collection. All this to say: We love getting to help our readership discover (and, hopefully, fall in love with) newer voices as well as more established ones. We’re conscious of trying to remain an accessible platform for writers with strong poetic voices at every stage of their careers.
Reason #3: We care about design and accessibility.
The visual impact of a poem matters to us. As does the user’s experience of navigating through it online. We love to work with our contributors to ensure that even pieces that float words across white space in complex formations are laid out in a way that honors the poet’s original vision. We don’t just throw the text of your poem into a preset blog template—we hand code each issue to ensure as much consistency among our readers’ experiences as possible, regardless of what browser or device they may be using. Furthermore, as we code, we keep in mind the fact that some of our audience may be using voice readers—and for future issues, we hope to be able to improve upon this further to create an even more accessible reading experience for all.
Intrigued? Head on over to our new Submittable page and send us your best. We can’t wait to read your work!
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month may be nearing its close, but as we all know, the challenge of representing APA voices on the page is one that continues year round. Lumen No. 3 (the third installment of our email newsletter) is about to drop into inboxes tomorrow, and we’re excited to announce that it will be the first of two newsletters focused on the topic of Asian American literature—not for adults, but for kids! These days, there is so much exciting, diverse work that is being published in the world of children’s books, and the titles that we’ll be talking about are stories that we have loved sharing with the youngsters in our lives and that we wish we had had as kids.
Why, you might ask, do we feel so strongly about this topic—though children are not LR ‘s primary audience? Here’s how Iris explains it in Lumen 3:
“Kids need books that will challenge them to see worlds outside of their own—but they also need books that offer them mirrors in which they can see themselves. And in the nineties [when I was the same age as my sixth graders], there just weren’t many kids’ or teen books that had characters like me or families like mine. . . . In short, I wasn’t only bored with the books in the teen section of the library; I just couldn’t relate to them.”
In this quarter’s newsletter, Iris will be putting on her “teacher hat” to discuss middle-grade and YA titles, focusing on three books that she enjoyed getting to share with her sixth-grade ELA students this past school year, and in Lumen No. 4 (to come in a few months’ time), Mia will be meditating on her thoughts as a parent on finding diverse books to share with younger APA readers.
If you’re already a Lumen subscriber, we hope you’ll enjoy sharing the books we talk about in these next two newsletters with the young people in your life. And if you’re not yet subscribed, there’s still time! Click here to sign upso that you won’t miss out when Lumen No. 3 drops tomorrow.
A very happy and healthy Memorial Day to all of you, and cheers to another wonderful APA Month!
Happy Wednesday! We hope you’re staying warm and cozy this frosty January day, especially those of you who are bracing for winter storms out East this week. It’s been a season full of transition for us here at LR, but we’ve really been enjoying leaning into the seasonal rhythm of writing for our new, quarterly email newsletter, Lumen. And today, we’re super excited to announce that the second installment of Lumen will be hitting our subscribers’ inboxes next Monday!
Lumen No. 1 focused on prompts and exercises for renewing one’s writing practice with the turn of the seasons, but Lumen No. 2 will be dedicated to considering the turn of the year—and specifically, the practice of setting intentions for our writing lives this year.
Just what is an intention? Here is a little sneak peek from the newsletter to explain:
“Different from a goal or a resolution, an intention is more about calling a season into being or simply naming it for what it already is. An intention may be about realigning one’s perspective; refocusing one’s attention with renewed intensity; or even aspiring to sustain a rhythm of growth or rest in one’s day-to-day life. Intentions are not meant to have quantifiable end results—rather, they’re are meant to guide and center us throughout a course of time in one’s life.”
LR editors Mia and Iris will be sharing some of their own intentions as they consider where 2017 took their writing lives and where they hope to go in 2018. We hope that those of you who are already subscribed will join us in thinking about how we can each approach our writing practices with greater purpose and grace this year—and if you’re not already a Lumen subscriber, there’s still time to make sure you don’t miss out! Simply click here or on the image at the top of this post to sign up
A very happy, healthy New Year (and Year of the Dog) to you and yours—and may your writing in 2018 be filled with light, joy, and inspiration.
Hello, LR community! It’s great to be back from DC. The Smithsonian APAC’s Asian American Literature Festival two weekends ago was a truly amazing experience, beautifully tying together multiple literary generations, styles, and sub-communities (from spoken word to critical scholarship) in the best way possible. We loved getting to catch up with old friends and had lots of fun meeting new faces in the literary lounge, where we were overwhelmed by your outpouring of support and enthusiasm. Thank you for making us feel so welcome!
As promised, we have some exciting news to share today. As announced at the festival, Lantern Review is getting a newsletter! There have been a lot of changes for us at LR these last few years, and we’ve been searching for a way to bring both more sustainability and more intimacy to what we do. The blog and the magazine are wonderful, but they require a lot of lead time due to the editorial process, and we’re not always able to deliver content to you with the sort of immediacy we’d like. Hence, we’ve created Lumen, a smaller-scale extension of LR that is sent right to your email inbox.
Lumen is not just your standard newsletter. As a subscriber, you’ll get more than just updates; you’ll have access to exclusive content, including writing prompts, meditations on craft and writing practice, teaching ideas, tips on publishing, reading recommendations, and more. We’d like to envision Lumen as a living-room chat between friends, a catch-up over an afternoon cup of tea or coffee. You can think of it as the blog’slittle sister, with the type of content that we have always provided, but with a more intimate format and feel.
So what does this mean for LR? Certainly, neither the blog nor the magazine is going away anytime soon. But the distribution of our editorial energy will be shifting a little. You’ll continue to see news and occasional full-length posts on the blog, but whereas we were very focused on the blog in the past, we now want to pour more of our energies into the magazine itself, so we’ll be concentrating on putting out more of our supplementary content via Lumen in the hopes of building toward a next issue sometime in the near future. Because we’re still experimenting with this new format, Lumen will come out quarterly for now, but if we feel that there is enough momentum to produce more installments, we may decide to increase the frequency of publication.
If you came by our table at the AALF, you should already be subscribed (if you haven’t received a welcome email yet, please check your spam or updates folders, or email us at editors [at] lanternreview [dot] com). And if not, getting linked up with Lumen couldn’t be easier. Simply fill out the form below, and you’ll receive a confirmation email in your inbox. Once you’ve confirmed your subscription, you’re all set! As a little thank-you gift for signing up, you’ll get access to a digital Little Poetry Flight created exclusively for Lumen subscribers, featuring work from Sally Wen Mao, Neil Aitken, and R. A. Villanueva. (Please note that even if you were receiving emails from us before as a contributor, you’ll need to sign up for Lumen directly, as it is an entirely different list).
We’re so very grateful for all of your continued support and are excited to build LR out in new directions through Lumen and more.We hope you’ll come along with us for the ride!
Hello, internet! It’s been a while. But here we are, at last, and with an exciting update for you: this week, we are packing our bags and heading out to Washington, D.C. for the Smithsonian’s inaugural Asian American Literature Festival! We’re so excited to get to participate in this historic event, featuring (among other things) readings and mentoring sessions by Kundiman and the release of Poetry’s new Asian American issue (guest edited by past LR contributors Tarfia Faizullah and Timothy Yu). If you live in the DC area or are planning on traveling in for the festival, we hope you’ll come visit us at our table in the literary lounge (see the schedule for exact locations, as the festival’s venue changes each day). In typical LR fashion, we’ll be offering a special interactive experience to everyone who stops by to say hello: for this event, we’re hosting self-guided poetry “microtastings” that we’re calling “Little Poetry Flights.” If you’re familiar with the concept of a wine flight or a cheese flight, you’ll know immediately what we mean by this, but if not, here’s how they work: Little Poetry Flights are small groupings of poems from our archives that we’ve curated by theme and/or context in order to create unique poetry “tasting” experiences. If you stop by our table at the festival, Iris will chat with you and personally recommend a flight that best suits your interests. You’ll then be able to use your mobile device to read the flight of your choice, either on the spot or later on at your leisure.
We’ll also be debuting a bit of big news about the future of LR at the festival. Our official announcement about this won’t appear on the blog until later in August, so especially if you want to be the first to find out about what’s on the horizon for us, please stop by and say “hello”!
We’ve missed our community of readers and are looking forward to connecting with you in person next weekend. We hope we’ll get to see some of you at our table as well as at some of the many fantastic events that the organizers have planned. And if you’re just hearing about this now and live in the DC area, never fear—it’s not too late! The festival is free and open to the public; you can find out more information below:
Are you planning on going to the Smithsonian AALF? If so, what events are you most excited about? Leave a comment to let other LR community members know which readings and other happenings are at the top of your must-see list.
Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe that 2017 is already here. In the past, we’ve made an annual tradition of listing some of our favorite reads of the year before the holidays begin. But this season, as we find ourselves staring down the barrel of a year that promises to hold significant changes for our nation with a mixture of apprehension and resolve, we’ve decided to do things a little differently. And so, rather than a list of holiday reading recommendations, here are a few books by some of LR’s friends and past contributors that inspired us in 2016 and that we hope will inspire you to take heart, to speak up, to fight harder, and to dream and make art with even greater passion in the coming year.
We are so proud to have published an excerpt of the manuscript that eventually became this collection in our sixth issue. In Power Made Us Swoon, Saito uses persona to probe family legacies of trauma, immersing herself in the history of Japanese American internment during WW II. Saito’s speaker is transitory, transcendent in the resolve that propels her to continually return to the artifacts of memory, and to inhabit sites and stories in search of narrative, lyric, image. In a time when more than one public figure has attempted to erase the trauma of internment in service of grotesquely racist and xenophobic rhetoric, this powerful collection seems prescient indeed.
A finalist for the National Book Award, Sharif’s Look captures the anxieties of our time, illuminating the frightful spectre of language mutated in the mouth of war. The collection recasts terms from the Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms to perform a kind of documentary acrobatics that shows how language and experience are imbricated in times of war. “I am attempting my own // mythmaking,” Sharif says, in an elegant, urgent argument about how the private and public, the immigrant and emigrant, and the civilian and military are realities that cast shadows, chiaroscuro-like, on each other.
One of the first poets whose work we published, Ocean Vuong has a distinctly masterful voice that sings and flits through this finely-tuned collection. At once delicately intimate and intensely raw, Night Sky with Exit Wounds powerfully stitches together—no, choreographs—feathered fragments of memory and the legacies of war and displacement onto a document of the speaker’s coming-of-age journey, a rich odyssey of survival and self-discovery as seen through the lens of language and text. In the context of the troubling conversations about refugees that have swirled to fever pitch of late, Vuong’s singular voice rises to bear poignant, timely witness.
“I’m that person who can’t stop looking,” Wong writes, and indeed, hers is the writing of an eye—or an “I”—that is attuned and attentive, a poetry startled into mystery, one into which perception floods, impressions overlaid and juxtaposed to encapsulate everything from the cosmic to the kitchen. The language in Overpour is filled with riddles and slips, steeped in undergrowth, and inhabited by mushrooms, carnations, and sweaters. The poems are songs, tasting the strangeness of language, its slippages and shifts in meaning, and embedded music.
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Of course, there are so many others that we could list—starting with the books and chapbooks that we featured on the blog in 2016. Janine Joseph’s Driving Without a License seems especially prescient right now in the context of the fraught conversations about immigration happening in our country, while Sun Yung Shin’s voice in Unbearable Splendor provides critical witness for the Asian American adoptee community in the wake of the unjust deportation of Adam Crapser. Meanwhile, Timothy Yu’s 100 Chinese Silences, Jai Arun Ravine’s The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide, and Pat Rosal’s Brooklyn Antediluvian model unique modes of resistance, writing back in satire and song. Nor are they alone in doing so among the titles that we have written about this year. Here is the full list:
Radio Heart(Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Yellow(Tinfish Press, 2011) by Margaret Rhee [Read our dual interview with Rhee and Chen Chen here.]
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We hope that 2017 is a year filled with brighter things for our community, despite all apparent expectation—glimmers of illumination in the midst of struggle, moments of delight that surprise us in the thick of the ever-present work. As you labor on, may these books, and the many others like them (c.f. also Bryan Thao Worra’s extensive roundup of books by API poets published in 2016, and Hyphen magazine’s 2016 poetry favorites), be touchstones to you. Return to them when the work feels weary; keep their words and images pressed to your skin like small talismans kept in a coat pocket, warm and smooth to the touch. May language serve you well this year, and may your own words in turn be infused with strength and truth and beauty, lantern-glow against the ever-quickening dark as we stride into the months ahead.
It’s with great excitement that we announce the publication of Sun Yung Shin’s most recent poetry collection, Unbearable Splendor(Coffee House Press, 2016). Among other books, Shin is the author of Rough, and Savage (Coffee House Press, 2012) and winner of the 2008 Asian American Literary AwardSkirt Full of Black(Coffee House Press, 2007), which Craig Santos Perez reviewed in Lantern Review’s Issue 1. For more on Sun Yung Shin, check out thispost on her poem “Until the Twenty-Second Century,” which appeared in our 2011 Poems for Monday Mornings series.
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In this post, we’re pleased to feature an excerpt from the opening pages of Unbearable Splendor, a collection of poems, essays, and hybrid works characterized by bold, flexible experiments in form. The work draws from a wide range of historical, mythological, and literary sources, including figures like Antigone, Asterion, and Pinocchio, demonstrating a deep concern with matters of origin: the etymology of words, the logic of replication and reproduction, and the ways these processes are interrupted by both natural and uncanny means. Shin examines technologies of artificial reproduction as well, staging them as interventions in her exploration of what it means to reproduce and to be reproduced. From this investigation of cloning, cyborgs, surrogacy, and adoption, Shin weaves a narrative of language and history that represents a striking new way of understanding identity.
An excerpt from “Valley, Uncanny”
Don’t let the name fool you: a black hole is anything but empty space.
—NASA’s website, Astrophysics page, Focus Areas, Black Holes
Where’s the hole’s end?
—김혜순 Kim Hyesoon, “A Hole”
A valley makes a kind of hole. A hole open on two sides. Korea—an island on three sides. South Korea—an island: water, water, water, DMZ. North Korea—water, water, DMZ, the People’s Republic of China.
I was a hole and I brought it, myself, to 미국 mi guk “beautiful country,” America, the United States. I carried a train of holes—holes of smoke, holes of sky. Holes of water, holes of rice milk. I was an uncanny guest. Two years old. A week after arrival from Korea, a brother, born in America, asked, “When is she going back?” Like the heavenly maiden with too many children to carry, to many holes to go back t(w)here.
There is a limit to canniness, but not to being uncanny—it is infinite, 무한, mu han.