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LR News: A Season for Sabbath

2014 March 26
by Iris
We're on the road to new things.

We’re on the road to new things.

To our beloved readers and members of the LR community:

In the four and a half years since Lantern Review first came into existence, we’ve been incredibly blessed. Over the course of six issues and hundreds of blog posts, tweets, and Facebook interactions, we’ve seen this community grow from a tiny little magazine that was making a little noise in the APIA literary community to a tiny little magazine with a steady community of contributors and readers that spans continents, that gets to make bigger noise at events like AWP (through projects like this map and other collaborations with our APIA publishing colleagues), and that continues to blossom year by year. It’s been a busy last four and a half years. A fruitful last four and a half years. A season in which we’ve been continually humbled by the breadth and strength of the APIA lit community, and for which we are unspeakably grateful.

But, as it’s sometimes said, there is a season for everything. And now, it so happens, is a season in which we (the editors) need to rest for a little while. This is a decision that’s been some time in coming. We love this project deeply, love working on it together, and have loved seeing the magazine, blog, and surrounding community grow in the past four and a half years. But running a two-woman editorial operation of LR’s scale requires an enormous amount of time and attention, and as new developments in our personal and family lives have come to light over the course of the last year, we’ve simply found ourselves in need of a break. And so, as of today, we are putting Lantern Review (both blog and magazine) on extended hiatus.

We should emphasize, first and foremost, that this does not mean the ultimate end of LR. Think of this as a “sabbath” (or even as a sabbatical)—a season in which we take some time away to recharge—rather than as the closing of the door for good. At the moment, our plan is to take a year off and to meet again after that time has passed in order to reassess where we stand and whether we are ready to relaunch. We are hoping that by taking a step back to engage in some much-needed time for family, personal projects, and general self-care, we’ll be able to return, eventually, with fresh eyes and new energy.

Practically, this will mean that LR, and all of its avenues of output, will go dark for a time. All of our content to date will, of course, continue to be accessible through the blog and web site. But we will not be posting new blog updates or taking submissions for the next issue of the magazine for a while. Nor will we be tracking contributor news on social media (Facebook or Twitter) or (most likely) promoting the magazine at the AWP 2015 bookfair (though it is possible that we may attend as individual writers). We still have one upcoming event that we’re participating in during the month of May (a very exciting collaborative reading that we’ll be doing with several other APIA lit mags!), and we will be continuing to provide social media updates about that as more details become available. We will also continue to be accessible via email, which we will check intermittently (perhaps once a month) throughout the hiatus. And of course, we want to be available to respond to any immediate concerns you might have about how the hiatus might look, or how it will affect upcoming plans for the spring, so please don’t hesitate to email us if there’s a lingering question that is weighing on your mind (we will still be checking our account daily for the next couple of weeks).

We wouldn’t be here without our community, and it’s thanks to you and your constant support that the last four and a half years have been such an incredible joy. And so, it’s with nothing but bone-deep gratitude that we sign off for now. Thank you for demonstrating to us, over the years, the brilliance and diversity and freshness of the work being created within the context of the wonderfully messy, slippery, complex thing that is APIA poetry. We have learned so much about community, about compassion, about the beauty of collaboration, the importance of continued debate and discussion, and the necessity of poetry itself. Getting to edit Lantern Review and converse with you has challenged and matured us as much as individuals and artists as it has taught us how to be good editors. We encourage you not to let the momentum go—to keep writing and reading and talking about APIA poetry; to continue the discussions that have already begun here. We wish you all the best in the weeks and months to come and hope to see you again, eventually, on the other side. In the meantime, please keep on carrying the torch!

To APIA poetry and to community, always!

In peace and light, as ever,
Iris & Mia

Editors’ Corner: On Our Radar (March 2014)

2014 March 13

Happy Thursday! A lot of relevant literary news has been making the rounds as of late, so we thought we’d do a quick roundup to keep you up to speed.

2014 Kundiman Prize Deadline Nears

The 2014 Kundiman Book Prize, co-sponsored by Alice James Books, is still accepting manuscripts for consideration until Saturday (3/15). If you’re an Asian American poet who’s been shopping around a full-length poetry manuscript, we encourage you to submit. Past winners have included Janine Oshiro (2010; interviewed on our blog here), Matthew Olzmann (2011; interviewed here), Cathy Linh Che (2012; featured in this Q&A), and Lo Kwa Mei-en (2013). More information, including guidelines, can be found here.

Updates: New and Forthcoming Book Releases by Contributors & Staff

Earlier this year, we previewed a few books that are forthcoming in 2014, and we were recently excited to learn that Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam has now officially been released and that Kristen Eliason’s Picture Dictionary is now available for pre-order on her publisher’s website.

In other contributor publication news, Craig Santos Perez’s third book, from unincorporated territory [guma']is forthcoming from Omnidawn later this year, and Don Mee Choi’s translation of Kim Hyesoon’s Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream (of which we published an excerpt in Issue 6) was launched at AWP last month. Additionally, Luisa A. Igloria, whose latest collection Henry reviewed here, recently announced that she has two more books forthcoming: Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser, for which she won the May Swenson Poetry Award, and Night Willow, due out from Phoenicia Publishing (in Montreal) this spring.

New Book of Interest: April Naoko Heck’s A Nuclear Family

Every now and then, we come across a new book that we wonder why we didn’t know about earlier, and this is one of them: April Naoko Heck’s debut collection, A Nuclear Family, which was just released. I [Iris] have been a fan of Heck’s work for some years now, ever since I encountered some of her poems in the first issue of AALR.  She writes with clarity and surety, an ear for music, and an eye for lush visual textures, artfully interleaving and building up layers of image to form beautifully collaged, almost dreamlike, poetic landscapes. I was thrilled to learn that she now has a book. (I only wish I had known about it in January when I started putting together our 2014 preview/round-up!)

“The Honey Badgers Don’t Give a Book Tour” Launching This Summer

We were delighted to learn that four of our past contributors (Eugenia Leigh, Sally Wen Mao, Cathy Linh Che, and Michelle Chan Brown) have banded together to do a book tour this summer. Their first stop will be a launch party in NYC (at LouderARTS Bar 13), on July 14th; the remaining tour dates have not yet been announced, but you can follow their website to stay abreast of future developments.

APIA Lit Mag News

A news round-up here wouldn’t be complete without a few updates about recent developments from our colleagues at other APIA literary magazines. One thing is for sure: they’ve been busy.

Last month, Kartika Review released its 2012–2013 anthology (now available for sale on Lulu). Its pages contain work by our very own Mia Ayumi Malhotra and Henry W. Leung,  as well as pieces by a number of LR contributors, including Karen An-hwei Lee, Khaty Xiong, Lee Herrick, Michelle Chan Brown, Neil Aitken, Purvi Shah, R. A. Villanueva, Rachelle Cruz, and W. Todd Kaneko.

The AALR also just released its newest issue, themed around the topic of “Local/Express: Asian American Arts and Community in 90s NYC” and guest edited by Curtis Chin, Terry Hong, and Parag Rajendra Khandhar. LR contributors’ work abounds in its pages, as well: R. A. Villanueva, Ocean Vuong, Purvi Shah, Eugenia Leigh, and Cathy Linh Che all have work that appears in the issue.

Last, but not least, TAYO recently launched their fifth issue (which takes “Community” as its theme). They also posted this very thoughtful response to some of the reactions to their revised open submissions policy (in which they will now consider work that is not specifically themed around Filipina/o issues) on their blog. The issues that they address in their post highlight what I think is a very real dilemma for many publications serving specific communities of color: how does one navigate the balance between focusing on being a resource for those within the community while simultaneously remaining relevant within the greater literary conversation—enabling participation from and dialogue with voices from outside the community, as well? It’s a fuzzy line that’s not always easy to walk.

Virtual Reading for APIA Month: Coming Soon

Lantern Review is excited to be participating in a first-of-its-kind virtual reading that will take place this May, in celebration of APIA Heritage Month. Curated by Kenji C. Liu (a past LR contributor and former poetry editor of Kartika Review), the reading will feature contributors from each of several APIA literary magazines, and will take place online in real time—through Google Hangouts. The details of the event are still being worked out, but we will be sure to Tweet and Facebook updates as we know more.

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That’s all we have for you today, but please continue to keep us updated on relevant literary news via Facebook and Twitter so that we can share it—we love hearing what you (and the poets you admire) have been up to!

2 Poets, 4 Questions: Q&A with Neil Aitken and Rumit Pancholi

2014 March 7
Neil Aitken and Rumit Pancholi

Neil Aitken (L) and Rumit Pancholi (R)

Today, we’re sharing the final installment in our mini series “2 Poets, 4 Questions.” Each week in this series, we’ve been pairing up two different emerging APIA poets and asking them to answer a set of four identical questions. Today’s post features a pair of poet-editors, Neil Aitken (author of  The Lost Country of Sight) and Rumit Pancholi (author of the chapbook Anatomy of a Ghost), who reflect on the things that haunt their poetry, putting together their first manuscripts, and the joys and challenges of editorial work

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1.

LR: What ghosts haunt your poetry? What are the voices and stories that dog you, the specters that find their way into your writing again and again?

NA: Landscapes, mostly. I hold fast to memories of Saskatchewan and the childhood I spent there working in the sun, or wandering through vast fields of grain in the summer, staring up at a sky that refused number or name. I carry all sorts of things with me in my work and in my life. Behind every new city lies an array of the ones I have left behind, large and small—but it’s always the prairies that end up dominating that view: the abandoned farmhouses, the forgotten roads, the fences that run the length of the horizon, everything speaks to something out of time, yet grounded to earth and sensation.

There are people that linger at the edges of my writing as well. My father, for one, now seven years gone into silence, and his voice, which I’ve kept preserved on a little tape recorder, stored in a drawer, waiting for the day I can bring myself to listen to it again. He was my first mentor—the first to encourage me to write, to draw, to imagine things beyond the world around me—and to value the power of language as a means of transformation and possibility. When I teach I find myself falling back on not just on what he taught me, but how—the ways in which he refused easy answers, but equipped me to search out my own.

As a programmer turned poet, I’m haunted the memory of my first encounter with contemporary American poetry, of standing in the aisle of a used bookstore and thumbing through a copy of Philip Levine’s New Selected Poems, and the way “Letters for the Dead” rose from the page and took over my entire imagination. How is it possible, I remember thinking at that time, that one can create so much longing, beauty, and music out of such plain speech? I wanted to write like that—and that yearning has carried me on a remarkable journey, page after page, through the minds and worlds of other great poets.

Lastly, I’m haunted by something the artist Kandinsky once wrote:

“Everything that is dead quivers. Not only the things of poetry, stars, moon, wood, flowers, but even a white trouser button glittering out of a puddle in the street… Everything has a secret soul, which is silent more often than it speaks.”

I love the notion of a secret soul that lurks in even the most mundane and forgettable of things and the way it opens up the space for wonder and surprise, even gratitude.

RP: I’m haunted by the inexorable draws of expectation, especially of Speaker = Poet. Often I feel that creative writers are expected to write, and do write, as I have in my work, about the issues that concern their race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality—an innocuous trifecta that intersects with love, pain, grief, and other sentiments in modern poetry. Past scholars, instructors, and mentors have given valuable guidance in steering me toward more about my lived experiences as a young, gay non-White writer and to tap into those avenues for creative writing fodder, to dig deep and wide. I have, and the result has been forced, uncooked, and unsatisfying poems that are eventually stashed in a folder on my computer labeled “Pending” only to be sheepishly dropped into the Recycle Bin months later. What was inhibiting me from reaching poems that I could read and reread without sounding standard and cliché? Over the years, I’ve begun to learn and identify that simply writing about those themes doesn’t create the spark I seek. After having written and destroyed hundreds of poems about an unrequited love or a jilted lover or the nuances of growing up constantly responding to gayness, otherness, non-Whiteness, I’m haunted by the “I” Rumit voice versus the “I” speaker voice that has to grapple with being within the poem and apart from the poem while simultaneously being inviting, charming, sexy, relevant to a reader. When I return to those common themes as a springboard, and when I do gain admirable momentum, I ask myself how this poem is different from other same-theme poems written by another “young, gay non-White writer.” That harangues me the most whenever I think I see the Finish Line.

read more…

LR News: Issue 6 Is Here!

2014 February 26
tags:
by Iris
LR Issue 6 Cover

LR Issue 6

This morning, it’s our pleasure to announce that the sixth issue of Lantern Review is now live! Featuring poems by Michelle Chan Brown, Rachel Ronquillo Gray, Lee Herrick, Matthew Olzmann, Brynn Saito, Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut, and Shelley Wong, and a special feature on translation in process that highlights the work of Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Don Mee Choi, Issue 6 is slim, but by no means short on quality. Even the cover art has a story of its own: the words that appear behind the negative space of the butterfly cutouts are actually pieces of text from one of the poems in the issue—Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut’s “in the town of colorblind.” Issue 6 has been a joy to curate, and we are exceptionally proud of the cohesiveness and strength of the body of work that appears within its pages. We only hope that you’ll find it as utterly pleasurable to read as we found it to put together.

To enter the issue, click here or on the cover image at the top left of this post. We’d love to hear what you think about the issue, so leave us a comment or reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook to let us know. And of course, if you experience any technical issues while browsing, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line at editors [at] lanternreview.com at any time; we’re always grateful for your feedback and will do whatever we can to assist you in improving your reading experience.

A very happy Wednesday to you, and safe travels to those who are traveling to Seattle for AWP.

Many thanks, ever and always, for your continued support

Peace and Light,

Iris & Mia
LR Editors

2 Poets, 4 Questions: Q&A with Eugenia Leigh and Hossannah Asuncion

2014 February 24
Eugenia Leigh and Hossannah Asuncion

Eugenia Leigh (L; Photo by An Rong Xu) and Hossannah Asuncion (R; Photo by Naomi Miller)

Today, we bring you the second installment in our mini series “2 Poets, 4 Questions.” Each week in this series, we’re pairing up two different emerging APIA poets and asking them to answer a set of four identical questions. Today’s installment features two New York—based poets who are both alumnae of Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA program and Los Angeles transplants: Eugenia Leigh (author of the forthcoming Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows) and Hossannah Asuncion (author of the chapbook Fragments of Loss).

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1.

LR: February, when we’re entrenched in the miserablest depths of winter, always seems to be a month of cravings: for indulgent foods, for human connection, for warmth, for light, for the coming of spring. (Margaret Atwood called it “a month of despair, / with a skewered heart in the centre” when one thinks “dire thoughts, and lust[s] for French fries with a splash of vinegar.”) As a poet, what are your literary cravings? What whets your creative appetite, haunts you, and keeps you coming back for more?

EL: My obsessions and “literary cravings” vary in accordance with my life seasons. They’re usually songs. Sometimes quotes. When I feel restless with those “dire thoughts” Atwood warns us about, I will expend myself tracking down the one song that resonates in both meaning and mood, then sit still and loop that song through my earphones for hours. Or I will stare at a quote for any length of time to absorb its meaning. This Franz Kafka quote, for example, carried me through bitter homesickness when I first moved to New York: “It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.” At the risk of sounding insane, I’ll admit I would stare at these words for entire evenings because I believed I could will them to come true.

During the season that produced my first book, I spent hours alone with Brand New’s 2006 album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Especially “The Archers’ Bows Have Broken.” I was far from having any semblance of faith in anything at the time, but I couldn’t get enough of the idea of “a God that we found lying under the backseat” or a God in other mundane or sacrilegious positions and scenarios. In 2008, when I moved to New York, The Fray’s “You Found Me” gave me a similar haven. The God in this song is “smoking his last cigarette,” so I trusted this God enough to indulge the idea of him. Maybe it’s correct to say I’m always lusting after the other worlds beyond this one. The Unseen. Unless a piece of art has an element of the mystical or the supernatural or the impossible, it’s difficult for me to crave it. Love it and be moved by it, sure. But likely not lust after it.

HA: I experienced an almost hubris recently that I,  a poet—an occupant in the field of emotional cryptology,  am actually very not-knowing of my feelings.  And so I like words that investigate and excavate—I like vulnerability and searching. I very much like the answer, I don’t know, but here is the doing and undoing of my world of questioning. The poets who are doing that for me right now are Ocean Vuong and Eduardo Corral.

read more…

Editors’ Corner: Making the Most of AWP (Without Losing Your Sanity)

2014 February 21
tags:
by Iris
Mia and I tabling with our APIA lit mag colleagues at AWP 2013.

Mia and I in the AWP 2013 bookfair with our APIA lit mag colleagues.

AWP 2014 is just around the corner, and although neither Mia nor I can make it this year, I thought that—for those who are going—I would share a bit of what I’ve learned from past years about how to get the most out of the weekend without letting it break me. Don’t get me wrong; I love AWP. It’s an amazing resource and a great opportunity for networking, for encountering new work, for hearing literary heroes read or speak, and for participating in critical and creative exchange with other writers. But AWP is also enormous. It’s filled with thousands of people, the schedule is packed with pages upon pages of events, and the bookfair is filled with hundreds of tables offering items for sale. I can’t claim to speak for everyone, of course, but for writers like me—who happen to be introverts, travel on a budget, and/or struggle with decision paralysis when faced with choices as simple as which variety of dish detergent to purchase—this can sometimes feel incredibly overwhelming. Fortunately, over the course of the five AWP conferences that I’ve attended, I’ve discovered that a little planning and pacing can go a long way toward making my experience healthier, more manageable, and altogether more enjoyable and fulfilling. If you’re going to AWP for the first time this year, or even if you’ve been before and want to minimize the crazy-making aspects of your experience this time, read on for some tips.

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1. Pack light, but be prepared. Check the weather forecast for the host city and try to pack appropriately (the last three years, it snowed heavily during the conference, and I was extremely glad that I had brought my winter boots and thick coat with me). Be sure to pack shoes that you’ll be comfortable walking or standing in for long periods of time, and that will provide you with some measure of protection from wet or cold weather. I also suggest planning to dress in layers during the conference. Especially during colder weather, hotels and conference centers tend to keep their heat up pretty high, and the bookfair in particular can be sweltering with all of the people milling around inside, so it’s a good idea to wear a couple of layers in case you start feeling very warm indoors (overheating inside the building is just as miserable as freezing outdoors). Also, if you have business cards, bring them! And if you don’t, I suggest considering getting a few made up with your name, email address, social media handle(s), and web site if you have one: Overnight Prints offers a great bargain for a solid product; for those who want something a little prettier, I highly recommend Moo.com. Lastly, don’t forget to leave extra room in your suitcase (or to pack a second, collapsible bag that you can pop out and fill up later). You will inevitably come home with books and other treasures, and you’ll want someplace to put them.

2. Plan your schedule selectively and strategically. Before the conference, look at the schedule and decide what events are absolute must-attends for you (if possible try to limit yourself to one of these per day; you’ll inevitably add more on later, but since there are so many events, it’s helpful to begin the conference with a sense of which events you would absolutely regret missing). Once at the conference, re-evaluate every evening, and map out two to three “target” panels to attend the next day, but be flexible. If other panels happen, wonderful! If not (and even if you don’t make it to all the events you’d planned to go to), don’t kick yourself. If you find that you really need a nap instead of attending that reading, take the nap (if you fall asleep while sitting in the audience at the reading, you’ll be missing it anyway).

read more…

2 Poets, 4 Questions: Q&A with Monica Mody and Cathy Linh Che

2014 February 19
Monica Mody (L) and Cathy Linh Che (R)

Monica Mody (L) and Cathy Linh Che (R)

We’re excited today to introduce a new, three-part mini series to the blog. For each part in this series, we’ve paired up two different emerging APIA poets and have asked them to answer a set of four identical questions. Today’s installment features two poets with very different aesthetic styles but intersecting thematic interests: Monica Mody (author of Kala Pani, which was recently published by 1913 Press) and Cathy Linh Che (author of Split, forthcoming from Alice James Books in April).

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1.

LR: In the wake of Valentine’s Day, we’ll start with this: what are your literary obsessions, and what breaks your heart? 

MM: Literary obsessions // Poems that catch me by my throat & pull me into the heart/breast of the poem. That dwell in the mouth of the beast and its opposite, its wholeness. That trigger an ache in the body, or bliss. On whom the eye falls and there is nothing but light. Poems of the earth, troubled about the relationships of humans with non-humans. That peel the crust of indifference off my eyes. Some of these poems have not yet been written. Two collections that I am looking forward to being obsessed with are Lucas de Lima’s Wet Land, and Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, Don Mee Choi’s new translation of Kim Hyesoon.

Heartbreaks // When poets write only to follow trends or to matter to the opinions of others, rather than let their hearts be broken in the writing of poems or dragged by wildness into that space that is of the animal the plant, relational, non-speaking, verboten. // When poets stay on the surface of poetry, stymied at the edge not jumping, stay with the dry husk of consensual meaning and consensual reality, stop themselves with rules and how-to’s.

CLC: Who are my literary obsessions? Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Srikanth Reddy, Jack Spicer, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, and James Baldwin. I’m interested in precise, intelligent, beautiful writing that takes great risk. What breaks my heart (in the best kind of way): honesty. My own and other people’s ability to speak up and out about issues that feel exposing and vulnerable.

read more…

Editors’ Corner: Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2014 (Part 2)

2014 January 31

Books We're Looking Forward to in 2014, Part 2

Today, just in time for the start of the year of the lunar new year, we’re finishing off our two-part roundup of books that we’re looking forward to in 2014.  Last week’s post (part 1) focused on recently published titles, while today’s (part 2) focuses on forthcoming books that are due out later this year.

Note: the books discussed below are divided by category according to whether they are currently available for pre-order, or whether specific details of their release have, as of this posting, yet to be announced. For each category, books are listed alphabetically by author.

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Available for Pre-order

Split by Cathy Linh Che (forthcoming from Alice James Books in April 2014)

Split is the latest winner of the Kundiman Prize (the previous years’ awards having gone to Mezzanines by Matthew Olzmann and Pier by Janine Oshiro). Cathy Linh Che is a poet who writes with clarity and shattering vulnerability. I heard her read from portions of Split, which intertwines histories of personal trauma with the inherited trauma of war and displacement, at last year’s AWP, and watched the crowd be visibly moved as she began to cry on the podium. Che said recently, in a feature on the Blood-Jet Radio Hour’s blog: ”at a reading, a young woman called me ‘the crying poet.’ She’d witnessed me bawling my eyes out at not one, but two of my own readings. I was a bit embarrassed by the nickname, but now it is a moniker I am proud of! If a book or reading is moving, I tear up. It is how I determine whether or not a work is good. Does it move me? And after I put down the work, does it endure?” I very much respect this: here is a poet who is willing to own the porousness between her work and herself, who is willing to allow herself to be moved by both the process and the “read” experience of her own writing. I can’t wait to read Split. 

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Turn by Wendy Chin-Tanner (forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in March 2014)

This is a special one for us here at LR. Wendy has been our staff interviewer for the past three seasons (she’s the one who’s been responsible for bringing you the insights of everyone from Garrett Hongo to Don Mee Choi), and we are so very ecstatic that she has a book forthcoming! We first got to know Wendy through her sonically rich, smart, politically-attuned poetry—we published a piece of hers in Issue 3 and enjoyed it so much that we made it the “closer” for the main body of the issue. Since joining the blog staff, she’s been a huge asset to the team, contributing colorful and extremely thoughtful interviews each month.  We were thrilled when we learned that Sibling Rivalry had picked up her book, and are very much looking forward to reading it in a couple of months’ time.

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read more…

Panax Ginseng: The Compassionate Sentence

2014 January 28

Panax Ginseng is a bi-monthly column by Henry W. Leung exploring linguistic and geographic borders in Asian American literature, especially those with hybrid genres, forms, vernaculars, and visions. The column title suggests the English language’s congenital borrowings and derives from the Greek panax, meaning “all-heal,” together with the Cantonese jansam, meaning “man-root.” This perhaps troubling image of one’s roots as panacea informs the column’s readings.

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Isamu Noguchi's "Seated Female Nude: Scroll" from 1930.

Isamu Noguchi’s “Seated Female Nude: Scroll” from 1930.

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Every line and stanza in Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s Hello, the Roses (New Directions, 2013) discharges a single sentence, a mysterious effect.

It’s nothing like the prophetic long line of Whitman’s mad children, no Ginsberg howling on the street corner, saxophonic riffing and swelling, breathless in the moving city as it spills at the seams, flooding forth—

Not quite. Nor is it the disguising work of prose[-block] poetry. Prose poems are camouflaged in continuity, text-wrapped and pressurized without white space. Usually this means, even in narrative prose poems, a sinuous and subterranean movement. This allows an ending to suddenly lift upward out of horizontal motion. (Matthew Olzmann does such sequencing exceptionally well in his lineated poems, using absurd humor for torque.)

But Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s long line in Hello, the Roses is uniquely specific. Observe, from “The Mouse”:

I can’t recall the beauty of the almond trees.

I’m unable to distinguish between seeing trees, my instant awareness of ethereal beauty and trying to remember images of our having been in Greece.

The moment I think of trees, they diffuse into beings whose frequency so differs from mine, I can’t see them.

They connect with each other in groves that seem celestial, yet our worlds unify.

The dawn of the possibility of their appearance as form, stone, shifts probability toward angels. (12)

read more…

Editors’ Corner: Books We’re Looking Forward to in 2014 (Part 1)

2014 January 24

Books We're Looking Forward to in 2014, Part 1It’s the first month of the new year, and so much news about exciting new books has come across our desk of late that we thought we’d put together a couple of roundup posts in order to put some of the titles that we’re most looking forward to reading in the coming year on your radar.  In today’s post (part 1), I’ll be discussing six recently published titles (five full-length books and one chapbook) that have made top priority on my to-read list for 2014. Part 2 (which will follow next week) will focus on forthcoming books that are due out in 2014.

Note: the books discussed below appear alphabetically by author; the order in which they’re listed does not reflect any sort of ranking or order of preference. (We’re equally excited about all of them!)

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The Arbitrary Sign by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé (Red Wheelbarrow, 2013)

Desmond Kon is a two-time contributor to LR (his work appears in both issue 1 and issue 5), and both times that we’ve published him, Mia and I had a really hard time choosing just two of the poems he’d sent in each batch. Desmond’s work interests itself in philosophy, visual art, pop culture, and the sounds and textures of language: he is interested in dadaism and in other forms of the avant-garde, and has a unique gift for finding the music in both “high” language (such as academic jargon) and “low” forms of speech—slang, text speak, gossip column patter. The genius of his poems lies in their polyglot nature—the way that he mixes contrasting modes of speech and weaves easily in and out of a variety of languages. His pieces work because there is a delightfully haphazard quality to their approach, a lightness that plays against both the weight of the poems’ scale and subject matter and the deliberate care with which the poet has gathered, built up, and sculpted their many intricate layers of texture and pattern. Desmond, a highly prolific writer, has published multiple chapbooks (both in the US and in his home city-state of Singapore) and has a long list of journal and anthology credits to his name—and for good reason. I’ve no doubt The Arbitrary Sign—a philosophical twist on the form of the classic alphabet book—will be as delightful as the rest of his body of work.

For a sneak peek at The Arbitrary Sign, head on over to Kitaab to read six of the poems that appear in the collection.

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Kala Pani by Monica Mody (1913 Press, 2013)

This is a book I’ve been looking forward to for a long while now. Monica wrote for us as a staff reviewer from 2010 through 2011, and we later had the privilege of getting to publish a poem of hers in issue 4. Her work is deeply invested in myth and parable, and the textures of her writing are rich and sinuously complex—by turns liquid and transparent, and by others, knotty and grotesque. She has an exceptionally keen ear for music and magic, both of which suffuse her work.  I had the pleasure of getting to read and workshop portions of Kala Pani back in 2009. It is a hybrid piece (partway between poetry and prose) that takes up the narrative of a group of world travellers who converge around an ancient tree.  In it, the poet deftly plies together the fibers of what at first appears to be an allegory-like story, only to tease and unspun these threads mid-strand and remake them again (differently) in the next breath. What I admired most about the manuscript when I saw it in workshop was the way in which the tapestry of the piece’s language shatters and shifts at a moment’s notice—like quicksilver. Monica is a brilliant critical thinker, in addition to being a talented poet, and it shows in the deeply intelligent nature of her writing: though she is keen to investigate notions of trauma,  geography, time, race, gender, spirituality, etc., her writing neither preaches endlessly nor holds to an overly simplistic view of the political: rather, she holds questions up to a mirror, testing them on a knife’s edge. She recognizes that the notions of place and identity are inherently fraught with instability, and she both celebrates and problematizes this complexity: the characters of which she writes transform and bleed into one another, metamorphose and cycle back to avatars of themselves, over and over again, in many different ways. It’s been a couple of years since 1913 first announced that it had acquired Kala Pani, and now that the book is finally out, I can’t wait to read the finished product.

Excerpts of Kala Pani can be found at The Volta, the Boston Review, and Lies/Isle.

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