An Asian American Poetry Companion: Books to Light Your Way into Winter (Late Fall 2021)

An Asian American Poetry Companion: November 2021. Collage of the following book covers (clockwise from top left): BOOK OF THE OTHER by Truong Tran, PILGRIM BELL by Kaveh Akbar, HOW TO NOT BE AFRAID OF EVERYTHING by Jane Wong, FOCAL POINT by Jenny Qi, COME CLEAN by Joshua Nguyen, LATITUDE by Natasha Rao, FIRE IS NOT A COUNTRY by Cynthia Dewi Oka, GENGHIS CHAN ON DRUMS by John Yau
New and Notable Books by Asian American Poets for Late Fall 2021

As the season deepens into late fall, it’s hard to believe that 2021 is already nearly over. And while the year has brought its fair share of struggle and heartache to the Asian American community, there have been so many things to celebrate (especially in the field of arts and letters), as well. Cathy Park Hong’s selection as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year, Don Mee Choi receiving the MacArthur, Hoa Nguyen’s and Jackie Wang’s being announced as finalists for the National Book Award—Asian American poets are making waves and doing big, impactful things. This year on the blog alone, we’ve featured 34 new books by Asian American poets—and our coverage hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. Today, we’re sharing our final set of book recommendations for 2021. We hope these eight titles will be a source of solidarity, hope, and light for you in the season to come.

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FEATURED PICKS:

Truong Tran, book of the other (Kaya Press, November 2021)

A timely meditation on the stakes of anti-Asian racism, Truong Tran’s latest book follows the story of the 2016 racial discrimination lawsuit the celebrated poet and artist filed against San Francisco State University. Mixing poetry with other genres, book of the other traces Tran’s experience of being silenced as an immigrant, refugee, and queer man, and argues back against the notion that anti-Asian racism is a victimless crime. Writes Douglas Kearney of the collection: “This book is necessary—terribly so. Yesterday, today, and for the foreseeable future.” This is one book that anyone invested in Asian American arts and letters—especially those who have spent time in academia—will want to read.

Jane Wong, How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James, October 2021)

Two-time LR contributor Jane Wong has just released her second collection, How to Not Be Afraid of Everything, and we couldn’t be more excited. Wong’s haunting poetry is wise, resonant, and brave, and it’s impossible to turn away from its gaze; as a writer, she possesses the gift of being able to milk startling light from rock. How Not to Be Afraid of Everything taps into the poet’s family history, touching on both the suffering inflicted by the Great Leap Forward and the struggle of immigration to America. Aimee Nezhukumatathil calls the collection “a spellbinding knockout,” and it’s been getting lots of attention of late, including Wong’s recent appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition. How to Not Be Afraid of Everything is at the very top of our to-read list for the season, and we hope you’ll consider checking it out, as well.

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MORE NEW & NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Kaveh Akbar, Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf, August 2021)

Joshua Nguyen, Come Clean (U of Wisconsin Press, October 2021)

Cynthia Dewi Oka, Fire Is Not a Country (TriQuarterly, November 2021)

Jenny Qi, Focal Point (Steel Toe, October 2021)

Natasha Rao, Latitude (Copper Canyon, September 2021)

John Yau, Genghis Chan on Drums (Omnidawn, October 2021)

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What new Asian American poetry titles have you been enjoying as you look ahead toward the end of the year? We’d love to hear from you! Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Cover image of A HISTORY OF KINDNESS by Linda Hogan

A History of Kindness by Linda Hogan (Torrey House, 2020)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Introducing LR Issue 9.2 (Asian American Futures: Arrivals)!

Cover image of LANTERN REVIEW Issue 9.2, Asian American Futures: “Arrivals,” featuring Mendy Kong’s illustration “warm”: view from inside a room with a pale peach wall and white-framed abstract artwork. Sunlight comes from an unseen window to create four rectangular yellow shadows below the frame. To the left of the frame is an open doorway, in which we can see another window casting similar yellow shadows onto the ground near a seated person with long, dark hair. Two small, succulent-like plants are visible below the window, as well as a small stool holding a white cup
Lantern Review Issue 9.2: Asian American Futures, “Arrivals”

We’ve been looking forward to sharing our youth folio issue with you all year, and this morning, we’re thrilled to finally announce its release. The second installment in our 2021 season celebrating “Asian American Futures,” Issue 9.2 (titled “Arrivals”), features work by fourteen young poets and visual artists, all of whom were between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four at the time of submission.

Fair warning: this issue is truly a stunner. Poets Sloan Asakura, Jireh Deng, Diana, Alicia Kwok, Julian Parayno-Stoll, Lourdes Ramos, Shebati Sengupta, Esther Sun, Syd Westley, and Rachael Lin Wheeler—along with visual artists Elwing Gao, Michael Khuth, Mendy Kong (our cover artist), and cairo mo—astonish and delight with work that is as deeply resonant as it is beautifully crafted. As we observe in our editorial note, these talented emerging voices aren’t just writing about Asian American futures—their work represents the generation that is boldly shaping the future of Asian American letters now.

We hope you’ll enjoy making your way through this powerful issue—and that you’ll help us celebrate by passing on the word! Leave us a comment below to tell us what you think, or find us on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).

Peace and light always,
The LR editorial team

Read our youth folio, Lantern Review Issue 9.2: Asian American Futures, “Arrivals.”


Cover of CALL US WHAT WE CARRY by Amanda Gorman

ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (Viking, forthcoming in Dec 2021)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

An Asian American Poetry Companion: Fresh Books for Fall 2021

An Asian American Poetry Companion: September 2021. Cover images of the following books, clockwise from top left: THE CURIOUS THING by Sandra Lim, ORDINARY ANNALS by Monica Mody, YELLOW RAIN by Mai Der Vang, ORIGIN STORY by Gary Jackson, CUTLISH by Rajiv Mohabir, VIRGA by Shin Yu Pai, O.B.B. by Paolo Javier, THE LAST THING by Patrick Rosal.
New and Notable Asian American Poetry Books for Early Fall 2021

Even we find ourselves at the close of another challenging summer, Asian American voices continue to shine in print. Earlier this year, we celebrated the proliferation of spring Asian American poetry releases. Today, we’re excited to highlight just a small portion of the new and forthcoming works coming out of the AsAm poetry community this fall.

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FEATURED PICKS:

Gary Jackson, origin story (U of New Mexico Press, August 2021)

Gary Jackson’s second collection delves deep into family history, hopping back and forth across time and geography to tell the stories of Jackson’s Korean maternal grandmother, Dukie, and his mother, Kimberly. Sprinkling personal vignettes with missives in Dukie’s voice and erasures created from interviews with Kimberly, Jackson meditates on what it means to navigate among identities—Blackness and Asianness, Americanness and Koreanness—across continents, and through intersecting diasporas in search of belonging. We thoroughly enjoyed this powerful new collection and hope you’ll check it out as well.

Monica Mody, Ordinary Annals (above/ground, August 2021)

Contributor (and past staff writer) Monica Mody’s newest chapbook, written over the course of the last year, reflects on the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021 as the poet herself contended with the US’s notoriously thorny visa system. In her signature resonant and deeply grounded poetic style, Mody examines the limits of the body in all its many senses—as creative work, as organism, as site of protest, as political subject, as resident (of community, of nation, of habitat, of ecosystem, of Earth)—resulting in a prescient work that, in the poet’s own words, “falter(s) towards a ripple, a ground of healing.” A beautiful artifact of these difficult times, this lovely little handmade chap is not one to miss.

Rajiv Mohabir, Cutlish (Four Way, September 2021)

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Rajiv Mohabir’s lush, melodic poetry. (We’ve published him three times, after all!) Cutlish is his third full-length collection, out this month from Four Way Books. Built around a semi-invented, musically inspired form that Mohabir calls a “chutney poem” after the work of Sundar Popo (considered the father of Caribbean Chutney music), Cutlish sets out to investigate the interstices of language and diaspora, postcolonial and queer identities. Patrick Rosal writes that, in its pages, “Mohabir leads us enthusiastically to the edges of language—torn, improvised, as well as deftly carved—where music and meaning are visually and sonically sumptuous.” If you’ve enjoyed the pieces of Mohabir’s that we’ve published in the past, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of this book.

Mai Der Vang, Yellow Rain (Graywolf, September 2021)

We were lucky enough to publish Mai Der Vang’s work back in Issue 3, and we were incredibly excited to hear about her second book’s entry into the world this fall. Vang’s first collection, Afterland, won the Walt Whitman Award, and she’s now followed it up with Yellow Rain, which bears witness to the harm inflicted upon the Hmong people in Laos in the 70s and 80s by the chemical known as “yellow rain.” Using collaged language drawn from historical documents, Vang’s newest book promises to be just as searingly powerful as her first. Booklist has awarded it a starred review, and Kao Kalia Yang describes it as a “an indictment of the highest and most poetic order.” We can’t wait to dig into this one when it’s released later this month!

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MORE NEW & NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Paolo Javier, O.B.B. (Nightboat, September 2021)

Sandra Lim, The Curious Thing (Norton, September 2021)

Shin Yu Pai, Virga (Empty Bowl, August 2021)

Patrick Rosal, The Last Thing: New & Selected Poems (Persea, September 2021)

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What new Asian American poetry titles are on your radar this season? We’d love to hear from you! Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Cover image of PLAYLIST FOR THE APOCALYPSE by Rita Dove

Playlist for the Apocalypse by Rita Dove
(Norton, 2021)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Thad Higa’s “From the Mountain” (Featured Poem)

ALT:  Feature image for Thad Higa's poem "From the Mountain." On the left, a black column with the title of the poem cascading down it in white. The words "From the Mountain" appear once at the top, and then again, reflected upside down, immediately beneath. The title is repeated again (both right side up and upside down) at the bottom of the column. To the right, on a white background, is a square outlined by a border of text (which reads "where are you from" repeatedly). Inside the square is a large sideways parenthesis, floating like an arc or a small rainbow. Piled up at its base is a pile of jumbled commas. Beneath that lies a yellow bar with a single blue semicolon. From the bar flow river-like lines composed of a variety of backwards and forwards words and phrases.

This week on the blog, it’s our privilege to feature the work of writer, book artist, and designer Thad Higa. For the past few months, Higa has been working on a visual poem with our 2021 theme of “Asian American Futures” in mind. Inspired by Kenji C. Liu’s frankenpo form, his immersive piece probes the age-old microaggressive question “Where are you from?” and investigates issues of language and belonging by merging wordplay with typography and digital collage.

Below, we’ve asked Higa to introduce his project and the concept behind it. When you’re ready to explore the poem itself in full, head on after the jump.


Artist’s Statement

The aesthetic was founded on frankenpo, a verb defined by poet Kenji C. Liu in his book Monsters I Have Been as: “to create a new poetic text by collecting, disaggregating, randomizing, rearranging, recombining, erasing, and reanimating one or more chosen bodies of text, for the purpose of divining or revealing new meaning often at odds with the original text.”

This is a digital broadside on identity ideation. It attempts to see words and concepts as identity-building materials that prop up binary, compartmentalized thinking. All variations of bodies and ways of being outside of this black/white vocabular are alien, invalid, dehumanized. “From the Mountain” wants to crack open English language and unveil the act of reading and judgement-making, to get at the root of seeing and knowing others and ourselves. 

Continue reading “Thad Higa’s “From the Mountain” (Featured Poem)”

LR Issue 9.1 (Asian American Futures: Horizons) Is Here!

Cover Image: LANTERN REVIEW Issue 9.1, Asian American Futures: “Horizon” (featuring painting by Tanzila Ahmed: six South Asian women with smoke-blue, braided hair, gold jewelry, and pink lips; hot pink laser beams shoot from their large eyes in every direction. Their heads and torsos float against a pink background and are hidden among green palms formed by collaged paper containing Urdu text about a Sufi saint. Water droplets the color of their hair fall around them.)
Lantern Review Issue 9.1: Asian American Futures, “Horizons”

At long last, Issue 9.1, the first in our 2021 season, is here! We’ve been talking about our theme, “Asian American Futures,” for months now, but when we finally sat down to work on this first issue, we were amazed at how naturally the pieces in it seemed to come together. From Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed’s colorful, witty cover art featuring a gathering of laser-eyed aunties to Joan Kwon Glass’s poem about her daughter’s love for Iron Man, Issue 9.1 is populated by superheroes, ghosts, space explorers, and other shared motifs that converge and riff off one another to carve out their own, sweeping futuristic visions.

In addition to Ahmed’s and Glass’s work, the issue also features poems from Cathy Linh Che, Chen Chen, Kirsten Shu-ying Chen, Geramee Hensley, Eddie Kim, and Bethany Swann. We’re in love with the courage, the hope, the fierce tenderness, and the wisdom to be found in these pieces, and we can’t wait to share them with you today.

We hope you’ll enjoy the issue, and as always, we’d love to hear your impressions! Leave us a comment below or let us know what you think on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).

Peace and light always,
The LR editorial team

Click here to read Lantern Review Issue 9.21: Asian American Futures, “Horizons.”


ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Cover of SOMEBODY ELSE SOLD THE WORLD by Adrian Matejka

Somebody Else Sold the World by Adrian Matejka (Penguin, 2021)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

An Asian American Poetry Companion: Must-Read Titles for Summer 2021

An Asian American Poetry Companion: May 2021. Clockwise from top left, cover images of: DIVINE FIRE by David Woo, A THOUSAND TIMES YOU LOSE YOUR TREASURE by Hoa Nguyen, DRAKKAR NOIR by MICHAEL CHANG, APPROPRIATE by Paisley Rekdal, THE GLASS CONSTELLATION by Arthur Sze, IMAGINE US, THE SWARM by Muriel Leung, SPARROWS AND DUST by Zilka Joseph, ELEVEN MILES TO JUNE by Ha Kiet Chau, IRON GODDESS OF MERCY by Larissa Lai, ANGEL AND HANNAH by Ishle Yi Park.
New and Notable Asian American Poetry Books for Early Summer 2021

Yet another Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is drawing to a close, but even in the face of the hatred that our Asian American community has faced this year, there is still so much to celebrate. This month’s Asian American poetry companion is jam-packed with recent releases to savor. We hope you’ll consider picking up a few (or all) of them to carry with you into the summer and beyond. After all, as we often remark, Asian American literary excellence doesn’t end with May!

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FEATURED PICKS:

MICHAEL CHANG, Drakkar Noir (Bateau, May 2021)

If you enjoyed MICHAEL CHANG’s lusciously textured epistolary poem in Issue 8.2, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of Drakkar Noir, their prizewinning debut chapbook, out from Bateau this spring. Dorothy Chan writes, in praise of the book, that “CHANG gives us romp and runway fused with popular culture that leads into allegories of what it’s like to be queer and Asian American in America—in the world today—around people who want to slow you down. Drakkar Noir is a love letter to all queer Asian Americans that calls out performative allyship.” If you’re looking for an intimate read that speaks presciently to the present moment, you won’t want to miss this one!

Paisley Rekdal, Appropriate: A Provocation (Norton, February 2021)

Though Appropriate has been out since February, we wanted to save it for our May roundup because it seemed fitting to it feature during APA Heritage Month. In this thoughtful craft book, framed as a series of letters to a student, Rekdal tackles the thorny subject of appropriation with delicacy, investigating difficult questions of power and authenticity that come into play when writing about the experiences of others—and probing, ultimately, the limits of empathy. Rekdal writes with care and pragmatism; her nuanced approach to this tricky topic makes this, in our opinion, an essential read—not just for students and teachers but for anyone who writes.

Muriel Leung, Imagine Us, the Swarm (Nightboat, May 2021)

Muriel Leung’s second collection, which won the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize, is hot off the presses this month. A collection of essays in verse, Imagine Us, the Swarm considers the loss of the poet’s father. In so doing, Monica Youn writes, it “renders visible the liminal space of the Asian American, an occupied territory in which every silence, every potentiality, hums with the white noise of other people’s imaginings.” Given the context of our community’s continued struggle for justice, and in light of our theme this season (Asian American futures), this collection is one we can’t wait to read.

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MORE NEW AND NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Ha Kiet Chau, Eleven Miles to June (Green Writers, April 2021)

Zilka Joseph, Sparrows and Dust (Ridgeway, April 2021)

Larissa Lai, Iron Goddess of Mercy (Arsenal Pulp, April 2021)

Hoa Nguyen, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure (Wave, April 2021)

Ishle Yi Park, Angel and Hannah (One World, May 2021)

Arthur Sze, The Glass Constellation (Copper Canyon, April 2021)

David Woo, Divine Fire (U of Georgia, March 2021)

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What titles by Asian American poets are on your reading list this summer? We’d love to hear from you! Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


ALSO RECOMMENDED:

Cover image of MIGRATORY SOUND by Sara Lupita Olivares

Migratory Sound by Sara Lupita Olivares
(U of Arizona Press, 2020)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

An Asian American Poetry Companion: Fresh Collections for National Poetry Month 2021

Alt Copy: An Asian American Poetry Companion: April 2021. Clockwise from top left are cover images of: LAST DAYS by Tamiko Beyer, CONTINUITY by Cynthia Arrieu-King, CLEAVE by Tiana Nobile, PEACH STATE by Adrienne Su, IF GOD IS A VIRUS by Seema Yasmin, PROMETEO by C. Dale Young, THE SUNFLOWER CAST A SPELL TO SAVE US FROM THE VOID by Jackie Wang, and WHAT HAPPENS IS NEITHER by Angela Narciso Torres.
New and Notable Asian American Poetry Books for April 2021

It’s a heavy time to be celebrating National Poetry Month. In the face of continued violence, our Asian American community aches. And yet, as our guest editor this season, Eugenia Leigh, shared on Twitter with regard to our theme for the season, “The racist hate crimes against Asian Americans don’t get to silence us. We get to define what #AsianAmericanFutures looks like.” If the wealth of new poetry titles by Asian American writers hitting the shelves this year is any indication, then the future of Asian America looks bright. Poetry as resistance, as resilience, as vision, as voice, as witness, as document, as radical care, as light—that alone is something to celebrate.

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FEATURED PICKS:

Cynthia Arrieu-King, Continuity (Octopus, April 2021)

Cynthia Arrieu-King has not one, but two new books out this spring. In addition to her lyric essay, The Betweens (Noemi, March 2021), her latest collection, Continuity, hits shelves this month. Arrieu-King has observed that she envisions Continuity as the second half of a “double album.” While her previous collection, Futureless Languages, looks ahead, Continuity dips into the past, excavating histories of war and inherited trauma. Laura Jaramillo describes the poems in the collection as “sonically soft and visually holographic, sensorially pleasurable and richly melancholy.” If you’ve enjoyed Arrieu-King’s previous books as much as I have, then Continuity is sure to be a title you won’t want to miss.

Tamiko Beyer, Last Days (Alice James, April 2021)

Our theme for the season is “Asian American Futures,” a notion that issue 1 contributor Tamiko Beyer’s newest collection, Last Days, embodies wonderfully. Featuring a group of charismatic young revolutionaries and their struggle to navigate a post-apocalyptic world, Last Days celebrates hope, resilient joy, and the beauty of human interconnectedness. Beyer writes with the deep tenderness, empathy, and breathtaking lyric clarity that is a hallmark of her work. I had the chance to preview the collection earlier this year, and it’s been one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far.

Tiana Nobile, Cleave (Hub City, April 2021)

The title of Tiana Nobile’s first collection, Cleave, is a contranym—a choice that, per the Southern Review of Books’s interview with the author, nods to the complexity of her experience as a transnational adoptee. Accordingly, Cleave mixes research with personal history to interrogate the legacy of transnational adoption. The result, writes Cathy Park Hong, is a “mythic origin story that is beautiful, melancholic and powerful.” I’ve enjoyed reading individual pieces from Nobile’s project in the past and admire the way she’s combined meticulous craft with an unflinching sense of vision. Now that Cleave is finally out in the world, I can’t wait to dig into the collection in its entirety!

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MORE NEW AND NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Adrienne Su, Peach State (U of Pittsburgh, March 2021)

Angela Narciso Torres, What Happens Is Neither (Four Way, February 2021)

Jackie Wang, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void (Nightboat, January 2021)

Seema Yasmin, If God Is a Virus (Haymarket, April 2021)

C. Dale Young, Prometeo (Four Way, February 2021)

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We hope you’ll consider giving one of these books a read this month. As always, if you are able, we encourage you to support small presses and local independent bookstores (especially BIPOC-owned bookstores) with your purchases. And we’d love to hear from you! What Asian American poetry books are on your radar this April? Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


ALSO RECOMMENDED

Cover image of Sonia Sanchez's COLLECTIVE POEMS

Sonia Sanchez, Collected Poems (Beacon, 2021)

Please consider supporting an independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Six Questions for Senior Staff Reader Indrani Sengupta

Close portrait of Indrani Sengupta wearing a black, gray, and white top and standing in front of closed white window blinds. The purple tips of her long black hair fall past her shoulders. She is looking directly at the camera with a serious expression.
LR Senior Staff Reader Indrani Sengupta

It’s the last week of our 2021 youth folio reading period! Earlier this year, we introduced our 2021 guest editor, Eugenia, and in late 2020, we helped you get to know Karen, our fall intern (and current staff reader). Today, while you’re preparing those last-minute submissions, we thought we’d take the time to highlight another member of our editorial team: our senior staff reader, Indrani Sengupta. Indrani is a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet from Kolkata, India, who is, in her words, “currently braving Illinois weather.” She received her MFA in poetry from Boise State University, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Copper Nickel, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, and Grimoire. As a key member of the LR editorial team for the past two years, Indrani brings a keen eye for craft and an empathetic approach to our submissions process, evaluating each poem she reads with fairness and care. If a manuscript crosses Indrani’s desk, rest assured that it’s in good hands! Read on to learn more about Indrani’s obsession with writing the body through fairy tales, garden spaces, and more in her own poetry; her thoughts on the importance of having the courage to play with abandon in one’s work; and her radical, canon-exploding dreams for the future of Asian American poetry. We know you’ll love her as much as we do by the time you’re through!

LANTERN REVIEW: How did you come to poetry?

INDRANI SENGUPTA: In grade school, we were given an assignment to write short free verse poems about natural artifacts: sun, sea, moon, earth, the like. I remember putting the full freight of my nine-year-old vocabulary into making them as pretty and wastefully lavish as possible. My teacher was pleased. My mother read them aloud over and over. I couldn’t stand it. I think I realized even then that there was something dishonest in what I’d written, so full of self-conscious beauty and so devoid of rage (which I had plenty of). I flirted with poetry for several years, writing well-behaved poems. I don’t think it was until I started reading poets like me — contemporary, female, brown — that I realized what poetry could actually be. Thorny, volatile, stunningly unfinished, devastating to writer and reader alike.

LR: What interests or obsessions are driving your work right now?

IS: Bodies, as they pertain to reproductive trauma and sexual assault, as they function in medical spaces, domestic spaces, garden spaces, hortus conclususes, witchcraft, the mythological canon, and the fairy tale canon. That’s . . . a lot of somewhat disparate topics, but I think the anchor point is always the body. Not even mine, necessarily. I’ve been enjoying getting into the sleeves of archetypal personas and anatomizing them from inside out.

LR: What’s one writing ritual or self-care practice that helps sustain you?

IS: The only thing that works for me is a sustained, penciled-in writing routine. It’s not as sexy as spontaneous inspiration, but I like to think there’s something good and worshipful about sitting with yourself for three hours and throwing nothing at a nothing-wall until something appears. For company, I keep a running doc of breathtaking poems from different journals and books that have nothing to do with each other, a running list of exciting words and orphaned lines that I want to use someday, and string lights that only come on when I’m writing (an attempt at conjuration).

Another completely unrelated practice: Dungeons & Dragons! It’s kind of like an act of communal, extemporaneous writing where you cannot fail—only die a little.

LR: What are some of your favorite poetry collections of the moment?

IS: These are not all of the moment, but I’m very much stuck on them: Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal, Franny Choi’s Soft Science, Srikanth Reddy’s Underworld Lit, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife, Kerri Webster’s We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone, Alicia Mountain’s Thin Fire.

LR: Looking back, what’s something you wish you could tell your younger self?

IS: Back in school, I once got feedback to play more with my work. I could not for the life of me figure out how. I thought I was already pushing the limits of what I was capable of. It took many years of hindsight to understand, and maybe I’m still in the process of understanding. If I could go back, I’d translate like so: throw out the loved image; interrupt the music; write the poem that doesn’t wrap neatly, that guts itself as it goes. Reapproach the work without a plan or a conscience. The good thing is, nowadays I have no real plan for anything. It’s terrifying! And I think that terror’s so very useful.

LR: What does “Asian American futures” mean to you?

IS: I attended grade school in India, but my first exposure to poetry was through the British canon. And I’m grateful to it, but I often think of who I’d be today if I’d encountered contemporary Asian American poetry sooner, or first. My hope for the future that kids like me (and unlike me) have that chance. Rework, expand, explode the canon.

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Many thanks to Indrani for sitting down with us to chat! For more from her, check out some of her poems here and here. And if you’re an Asian American poet or artist aged 14–24 and you haven’t yet already checked out our youth folio call for submissions, head on over to our Submittable page—there’s just under a week left to send us your work!


Cover image of WITCH WIFE by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande, 2017)

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Kiki Petrosino, Witch Wife (Sarabande, 2017)

Please consider supporting an BIPOC-owned indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Publishing 101: How to Submit Your Work (to LR or Any Literary Journal)

Publishing 101: How to Submit Your Work (to LR or Any Literary Journal). LR, lanternreview.submittable.com, Asian American Futures. Background image: black-and white photo of a wooden dock pointing out over open water. On the horizon are hills shrouded in misty fog. (Photo by Simone Mattielli on Unsplash)
Submissions are open for our youth folio! If you’re new to the world of literary publishing, read through this post for some tips before you head on over to send us your work.

It’s the first day of our youth folio submissions period, and we’re so excited to see your poems and art! Because we know that this might be the first time some of you are submitting to a literary journal, we thought we’d take some time today to discuss our best tips for navigating the submissions process. The advice below is geared toward sending your work to Lantern Review, but much of it will also apply to other literary journals. (Just remember that every publication is different, so be sure to read the specific guidelines for wherever you send your work!) Whether you’re new to sending out your stuff for publication—or you just want a quick refresher—these four key steps are an easy recipe to help you get started.

Step 1: Get to know the journal.

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to research any journal you’re submitting to. Take some time to read through past issues if they’re available, and look at whom they’ve published in the past to get a feel for the kind of work they like. (At Lantern Review, you can read our current issue here and browse our archive of older issues here.) As you read, ask yourself: What themes does this magazine tend to be interested in? Is there a style of work that they seem to publish a lot? Have they published any work in the past that seems similar to mine? Are there any pieces they’ve published that I really admire?

The idea is to get a sense of whether your work would fit well with what the journal usually publishes—as well as which of your pieces the editors might be most interested in. (For example, if the journal hasn’t published any poems that rhyme in the past, and you have some poems that rhyme and some that don’t—then you’ll know that you should send only unrhymed pieces.)

So what kind of work do we like to publish at Lantern Review? We talk about this and other related topics in our Submissions FAQ (which we highly encourage you to read!). But here’s what we have to say about our magazine’s particular stylistic preferences:

We love poems that surprise and challenge us, that are musical and filled with vivid, concrete imagery; that play with language in new and interesting ways; that take risks; that have something distinct to say. We tend to prefer unrhymed, free verse poems. We no longer publish translations. To get the best idea of what we publish, we encourage you to read through a few of our past issues.

[. . .]

For visual art, we’re looking for paintings in traditional mediums (like watercolor, oil, acrylic); lino or woodblock prints; collage; and abstract photos that we can juxtapose with poems and maybe even use as cover art. We’re fond of moody, monochrome color palettes, striking contrast, and interestingly textured play with shadow and light. As stated above, the best way to get an idea of the type of art we publish is to look at our past issues.

Other journals will have different preferences than ours, but regardless of where you’re submitting, it’s a good rule of thumb to take a poke around a magazine’s website or blog for any information about what they’re interested in publishing (tip: you’ll often find it tucked away on the “about” or “submissions” pages)—and then use that to help you decide what to submit.

Step 2: Read the guidelines. (Yes, really!)

It might sound like a no-brainer, but we can’t tell you how many submissions we receive that we unfortunately can’t review because the submitter did not read the guidelines—from sending us work in genres that we don’t publish to attaching book-length manuscripts that are far too long for us to consider. No matter where you’re sending your work, it’s important that you follow the guidelines carefully! Editors and staff readers see a lot of submissions at once, so if an entry does not meet the guidelines, they might not be able to give it their full attention. Abiding by the rules gives your submission the fairest chance possible.

At Lantern Review, we have a set of general guidelines that apply to all submissions, as well as specific instructions that apply to work for each category (poetry or art). And as is the case for many magazines, you’ll need to know a couple of publishing-industry terms. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they mean.

Rights revert to the author upon publication of the work. Most US-based literary journals claim what are known as first North American serial rights. This means that the magazine reserves the right to be the first North American periodical to publish a piece. However, journals usually do not hold onto the rights to a piece after it’s published. When a magazine states that “rights revert to the author upon publication of the work,” it means that after the issue containing your piece comes out, you (the author) own the rights again. When a journal says this, it generally means two things. First, you shouldn’t submit any work to them that has previously been published. Second, you don’t need to ask the magazine’s permission to republish the piece after the issue comes out (though most journals appreciate a short acknowledgment in the republished version—something like “This poem was first published in Lantern Review“).

Simultaneous submissions. A simultaneous submission is a piece that more than one journal is considering at the same time. As long as the guidelines say so, most magazines (like us!) are fine with this; they’ll just ask you to tell them which pieces are simultaneous submissions—and to inform them if another magazine accepts a piece before they do. There’s also an unstated etiquette rule here: it’s really bad form not to tell a magazine when a piece is no longer available because another journal’s accepted it first. So be sure to write or message the editors right away if you’re lucky enough for this to happen! (Don’t worry; no one will be offended—in fact, they’ll probably congratulate you on your news.) And rest assured: even if you withdraw a piece from consideration because it’s been accepted elsewhere, most journals (like us!) will still read and consider the rest of your poems.

Once you’ve read through the guidelines, you might find that you still have some questions. If that’s the case, you should first refer to any FAQs (here are ours) that a journal may have available on their website. If you can’t find the answer there, then go ahead and email the editors—if they’re anything like us, most will be delighted to answer your questions!

Step 3: Prepare a cover letter and bio.

In the literary publishing world, it’s normal to send a cover letter with each submission. Fortunately, this isn’t the high-pressure sort of cover letter that you send with job applications! In a literary cover letter, you usually just need to introduce yourself and your work and let the editors know of any important special information (like if some of the pieces are simultaneous submissions). If you’d like a great basic template to help you draft your letter, we suggest looking at this one from Adroit.

When you’re writing your cover letter, try to use slightly more formal language, and make sure that you’re addressing the editors accurately in your greeting. Many people begin their cover letters with just a simple “Dear editors,” but you can also look up and include the editors’ first names in your greeting if you like. If you do this, be sure to double check your spelling, and avoid adding titles like “Mr.,” “Ms.,” or “Dr.” unless you know the editors and their preferred titles personally. (For Lantern Review, if you want to address our 2021 team of editors and readers by name, you can write, “Dear Eugenia, Iris, Indrani, and Karen.”)

Many journals will also ask you to include a short bio with your submission. Lantern Review asks you to put this information in your cover letter, but other magazines might ask you to include it in a separate field in the submission form. Literary bios are usually short and are written in the third person (i.e., not “I” or “me”). Most include some information about the poet or artist’s identity and/or location, any notable past publications and awards, and even (sometimes) a couple of fun facts—like about pets or hobbies. Here’s a great example of a bio from a student we published in Issue 4:

Susan Li is 18 years old. She was born and raised and still lives in Brooklyn, where she graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School. She is currently attending Hunter College and pursuing a degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy, with a minor in Asian American Studies.

Step 4: Put together your best work and send it in!

Take a look at your work and choose a few pieces you’re proud of and think the magazine editors might like, too. How many you send is up to you—but definitely don’t send any more than the maximum number allowed (for Lantern Review, that’s four). We also think it’s a good strategy to send more than just one! Not only does sending more than one piece help editors to get a better sense of your work; it also gives them more options to choose from. For example, if the Lantern Review team gets a submission with three pieces in it, we might like the second or third piece even if we don’t want to publish the first. If you only send one poem, you’re only giving yourself one chance to get our attention.

If you’re a poet (the following doesn’t apply to visual art submissions), combine the pieces you’ve chosen into a single document (editors call this a manuscript or an MS or MSS), in whatever format the guidelines suggest. While you’re compiling your manuscript, it’s also a good idea to think about the order you want editors to read each poem in. If you can’t decide, at least try to put the strongest poem first!

Give your cover letter and manuscript one last, final proofread—then head on over to the submission form, and hit “send.” Congratulations; you’ve just submitted your work!

Extra Credit: Say “thank you” when you get your reply.

After you submit to a journal, you can generally expect to wait anywhere from several weeks to a few months before you get a reply. Most journals will give you an estimate of their response time (ours is eight weeks after the close of the submission period). If you don’t hear back within that time, it’s okay to send a polite message asking for a status update! But once you do get an official acceptance or rejection, it’s really nice if you can send a short reply. For acceptances, you’ll usually need to reply in order to give the journal written permission to publish your work. For rejections, replying is totally optional, but if you get a personalized rejection (which is when an editor writes back encouragement or feedback or asks you to consider submitting again), that’s considered a compliment—so it’s generally a good idea to write back with a quick note of thanks!

* * *

We know it takes guts to put your work out there—but we hope that this breakdown has helped make at least the submissions process at Lantern Review feel a little less intimidating and mysterious. We encourage you to check out our Submissions FAQ and to email us at editors [at] lanternreview [dot] com if you have any questions. We’re here for you! And we’re ready and waiting to read your work.

Click here to Submit to our 2021 Youth Folio: Asian American Futures (Powered by Submittable)

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As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

“Each Poem a Window”: A Conversation with Brian Komei Dempster

Header graphic. At the top, the LR logo and the words "A Conversation with Brian Komei Dempster." Below, a photo of Dempster, a poet with short, spiky, dark-brown hair and 
wearing a blue button-down shirt with a small white dot pattern. He is standing against a wall of long, gray stone tiles and looking off to the left. At bottom right is the cover of SEIZE, with white title text on a painting by Suiren—green, red, and white abstract brushstrokes on a tan ground.
Brian Komei Dempster and the cover of his latest collection, SEIZE

This winter we had the privilege of speaking with poet Brian Komei Dempster about his new collection Seize, published last fall by Four Way Books. Dempster is a professor of rhetoric and language at the University of San Francisco, author of Topaz (Four Way Books, 2013), and editor of the award-winning From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps (Kearny Street Workshop, 2001) and Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011). In this interview, we discuss the historical and ethical stakes of Dempster’s artmaking, his creative lineage as a mixed-race Japanese American, and, of course, the luminous figure of his son Brendan, whose epileptic seizures and resilience act as both inspiration and occasion for this remarkable new book.

* * *

LANTERN REVIEW: First off, congratulations on your just-released book Seize (Four Way Books, 2020)! Your poem “Night Sky” is such a beautiful opening, and the poem that came to mind as I was reading it (this, to be certain, says more about our friendship and ongoing conversation as fellow Japanese American poets than anything else!) was Lawson Fusao Inada’s “Concentration Constellation,” with its imagery of stars, jagged lines, and the flag/nation. Even if they exist only in my own mind, I sensed Inada’s words about the “jagged scar . . .  the rusted wire / of a twisted and remembered fence” moving in the backdrop of the poem. 

I hope this isn’t imposing unfairly on your work, but my sense is that you’re asking readers to understand the relatedness of these things: your son’s life and his epilepsy alongside your mother’s experience as an incarceration camp survivor, as well as other histories of seizure and brutality. Now that the book is written, these relationships feel obvious, vital; but I can imagine a time in which this was not yet the case, when you were perhaps moving blindly through your reactions to your son’s diagnosis and needs without a sense of how they might be connected to these more historical or political realities. How did you find your way into this book’s articulation? 

BRIAN KOMEI DEMPSTER: I love that connection to Inada’s poem and that resonance, which I had not thought of before. Stars are such a mythic, long-standing image and symbol in poetry, and I can’t help but see our ancestors behind “the rusted wire” of this “twisted and remembered fence,” looking up at the night sky, imagining a ladder towards the stars, climbing rungs into the sky’s vast freedom.

Just as the suddenness of Executive Order 9066 and swift, forced removal from their homes must have been shocking for our families, so, too, was my son’s diagnosis a shock to our systems. Our lives upturned in an instant. Our expectations subverted. Like my mother and her family, my wife, Grace, and I had little time to think. Like them, we needed to act fast. At first, the reactions, as you point out, were involuntary, a river’s current shuttling us swiftly downstream as we paddled frantically for unseen shores. The poems, too, spilled out, some bursting blue sparks of rage, some bathed in a sad orange glow, flickering with guilt. Raw emotion superseded poetic craft or intention or anything else for that matter.

Only with the passing of time, as I stepped back from the immediacy of that initial shock, could I see the poems clearly. What was initially therapeutic venting onto the page—which I acknowledge was so important—became something different. As I moved from grief towards acceptance, these drafts began to speak to me as poems. When I cut away the rough edges, chiseled the black granite of words, I found jewels, arrived at a language that was beautiful in its realness as it sang our complicated truths. While I went through that process, it was helpful to remember the wise insight that Michael Collier—former director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference—had shared with our group many years ago in his workshop. It went something like this: “A poem is smarter than we are. To realize a poem, we must listen to what it is trying to say to us.”

Following that cue, I saw that candid confessions and raw energy were powerful but, by themselves, not enough. I thought of my dual responsibility as an artist: to commit to the doing, which meant sitting down to do the hard work of writing and revising the work, and, at the same time, to inhabit the being, which was opening to and receiving the poems and their essence. This required a quieting of—and even playful dialogue with—the ego and its chattering voice, a letting go of perfectionistic tendencies, a tapping into energies that transformed the exhausted feeling of laboring through drafts into the excitement of creative discoveries, the pure fun of linguistic play and experimentation. Above all, I did my best to have an unwavering faith in process and hold firm to the belief that staying in such a space would keep me grounded, sane, and optimistic, and would lead to positive outcomes. I imagined myself in a house with many rooms, the poems crackling and alive, voices speaking to me through the walls. I cupped my ear to the walls, really listened to what the poems were trying to tell me. What images and details were they offering up, and how could I navigate and shape them? How could I effectively merge these specifics with the father-son story I was trying to tell? How could I get to the real truth of my son, which was something beyond language, when language was all I had, and my son communicated through touch and a primal language that alternated between euphonious and guttural sounds? How could I describe a boy who was both real and unreal, present and here, yet transcendent and otherworldly?

When I really opened my heart, it became a chamber my son could walk in or through, escape to or from. He became the boy that the poems were making him, and the work magically transformed. He became a bird, an angel, a lion, a sunflower, an oak. His journey morphed into a larger saga. The storms in his head became the storms my mom blinked at as a baby in Topaz. The seizures that gripped him became the hands of men who bound and chained others.

As I write this, these events still seize us, these linkages still sicken and sadden me. But they also show the power of my son. At the center of the storm, he takes us inside our collective vortex. As we swirl through histories and lives of trauma and pain, we search for love and bravery, forgiveness and calm. Here I quote Haruki Marukami: “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.” Marukami’s words and my son remind us: because the storm gives us such an extreme and opposite reference point to normal life, the storm makes us feel and see everything more clearly. When we pass through the storm, we are changed. When the storm ends, we rest. The only way out is through.

LR: While many of the poems in Seize address experiences of brutality, at the book’s heart lies an unwavering commitment to care—though of course that commitment is not without its own journey through violence. This may be more of a question about self care, but how did you guard the space necessary to make these poems—to regard your son Brendan with such tranquility amidst the tumult, to speak with such lyric clarity into moments of pain, inherited and otherwise?

BKD: I am touched by your tender recognition of the emotional challenge I experienced writing this book. Your insight allows me to reflect on a larger question that is relevant to all of us as writers: How do we create safe spaces that allow us to dig deep into the psychic terrain of ourselves and, at the same time, remain in balance? The image that comes to mind is that of a garden. Our bodies, our minds, our art—all of it must be tended. In our lives, we plant seeds, we hope things will bloom. Along the way, we contend with periods of frost, drought, scavengers who threaten our crops; to make it through, we must believe in our harvest, its eventual fruition. What does this really mean as we navigate the real responsibilities and pressing demands of our own lives?

Guarding the space, as you nicely put it, means defining your relationship to your art. We are all different and need to figure out how to best weave writing into the fabric of our lives. When I was younger, I sometimes romanticized the notion that being a great poet meant giving oneself away to one’s art. As I grew older, however, I realized that being a writer needs to be integrated with being a good husband and dad. This model originates from what I witnessed in my family growing up: my mother painted and played the piano; my father played trombone and other instruments. They both worked full-time as educators. While my father, in particular, had to maintain a tricky balance between travel for music and commitment to family, we knew that he loved and cared for us. We, as children, were an integral part of our parents’ artistic and professional lives. Their passion for art did not threaten to extinguish us; nor did their goals diminish our importance on a daily basis.

To keep the space intact, we must create a system that allows us to protect our own time and energy. For us, this biggest factor is Brendan himself, who needs one-on-one care at all times. Caring for ourselves meant making sure Grace and I had enough help with him; when we did, I set aside hours on certain days where I attended only to the poems. When we didn’t, I tried to accept that the writing would have to wait. And with the demands of caring for him, Grace and I needed to be mindful of our relationship. Fortunately, because we are both writers, we understand the space and maintain a healthy reciprocity in terms of the amount of care we each do for him and also in terms of supporting things—from writing time to retreats and conferences—that allow our work to flourish.

While guarding the space is a process largely within our control, keeping faith in our work—and a good outlook—involves focused intention and effort. When my thoughts darkened, and I despaired about my son, his future; when I felt exposed or worried by what I had revealed about myself or him in a poem—I practiced the Buddhist discipline of abstracting thoughts, stepping outside them and seeing them from afar. I meditated, even if just for five or ten minutes. When I swam laps, water cleansed away toxic ruminations, reinvigorated me. I tried my best to live in Keats’s unresolved state of negative capability, the mystery and uncertainty that Buddhism encourages you to lean into rather than resist.

During the writing of Seize, all of this, of course, was challenging, and I wasn’t always successful. There were stops and starts, times when I thought a poem or the book wouldn’t come together and when we were exhausted from trying to care for our son while working full time and being called into the duties of our many roles. On certain long days of caregiving, it took effort to stay engaged and not become dulled by the monotony of feeding, dressing, and bathing my son. Yet when I entered his wavelength, I found joy in his clicks and coos for favorite foods; his shrieking laughter when I turned on the shower and he slammed the silver hose against the wall.

Edward Hirsch once talked about this idea to us in a poetry workshop, something to the effect that “Life doesn’t make room for poetry. You need to carve out that space on your own.” With a blend of imagination and pragmatism, we can find our own ways to build a fortress that fends off the intrusive, encroaching forces that oppose our artmaking. Here, I return to the garden. In the rich soil of our complicated lives, we turn up earth, pull out weeds, plant things, remain patient as they grow. It’s vital to care for our work as we do ourselves, to tend to it as we do our loved ones. If we can do that—and, in turn, defy the stereotype that writers must drink themselves to death or go crazy making their art—then we can reinforce the emergent model of the twenty first–century artist: one who harmonizes their life and creates in a sustainable way.

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