Summer Reads: Jai Arun Ravine & Henry W. Leung’s Top Three

Today’s installment of Summer Reads 2012 is the last of this year’s series, and a bit of a double-header. We have reads from two of our favorite LR Blog staff writers, Jai Arun Ravine and Henry W. Leung.

First, from LR contributor and book reviewer, Jai Arun Ravine:

Rachelle Cruz, Self-Portrait as Rumour and Blood (Dancing Girl Press), because it is about the aswang, a Philippine witch/vampire, and it has a bat/pterodactyl on the cover.

Javier O. Huerta, American Copia: An Immigrant Epic (Arte Publico Press), because it is about going to the grocery store and being checked out–by cashiers, cuties and INS agents.

Sarith Peou, Corpse Watching (Tinfish Press), because it is about being incarcerated and surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide, and for the amazing way it is bound.

And from LR book reviewer and “Panax Ginseng” columnist, Henry Leung:

Paper Shoes – Pavel Šrut
Between Security and Insecurity – Ivan Klima
A Prayer For Katerina Horovitzova – Arnošt Lustig

I’ve been in Prague discovering the work of incredible Czech writers. I got to hear Ema Katrovasread her prodigious translations of Šrut’s poems, which are brief and profound pieces following an everyman figure named Novak; and I got to hear Klima read a very insightful essay from his collection, about consumerism’s impact on religion and spiritualism today. Lustig, I’ve been told, was dedicated to the teaching of writing through fables; he was a Holocaust survivor (one of his titles, Transport From Paradise, is a heartbreaking reference to the way that the concentration camp at Terezín was paradise compared to the others), and an enormously important writer during the Velvet Revolution (along with Klima, Kundera, et al); he just passed away last year.

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For more, read Jai’s “dern, 1” and “dern, 2” in Lantern Review, Issue 1, as well as Henry’s “Question for a Painter.”

To see the rest of this series (and find out what else our contributors have been reading this summer), click here.

What have you been reading this summer? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know.

Summer Reads: Cathy Che’s Top Three

Cathy Che, whose multimedia workshop “Double Exposures: Documenting the War at Home” was featured in Issue 4: Community Voices, brings us today’s list of Summer Reads 2012. She writes:
Paisley Rekdal’s Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press)–I just read a galley copy last week and loved it! I loved the way the poems moved–they never settled for the simple epiphany, but kept working and working, sometimes doubling back and reinventing themselves.

D.A. Powell’s Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (Graywolf Press)–I’m a native Californian, and I love the way that Powell maps the landscape of Northern California, looking closely at its history of immigration, exploitation, personal histories, etc.

Cathy Park Hong’s Engine Empire (W.W. Norton)–I haven’t read the book yet, but ALL my friends have recommended it to me.
Bonus: Natalie Diaz’s When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press)
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To see the rest of this series (and find out what else our contributors have been reading this summer), click here.

What have you been reading this summer? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know.

Summer Reads: Monica Mody’s Top Three

Today’s reading list, part of our 2012 Summer Reads series, comes from Issue 4 contributor and former Lbook reviewer Monica Mody. Her recommended reads:

1. Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability. Art: Durgabai Vyam, Subhash Vyam; Story: Srividya Natarajan, S. Anand (Navayana)

Breathtaking reworking of the graphic novel form by the Pardhan Gond artists Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam, which opens out the story of BR Ambedkar’s life into a multilinear, multi-layered narrative about how caste oppression continues in contemporary India.

2. Speaking of Siva, translated by A.K. Ramanujan (Penguin)

Translations into English of the vacanas, i.e. bhakti poems, of four 10th-12th century Virasaiva saints from Karnataka, along with a wonderful introduction by Ramanujan.

3. India: A Sacred Geography, by Diana L. Eck (Harmony)

Eck meticulously and soulfully persuades that the landscape of India is “living, storied, and intricately connected” through pilgrimage practices.

Also I’ve been keeping track of the books I buy/borrow/receive (and read) as I travel through India this summer—this list might also be interesting to LR readers.

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For more, read Monica’s “Myth of Spirits” in Lantern Review, Issue 4.

To see the rest of this series (and find out what else our contributors have been reading this summer), click here.

What have you been reading this summer? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know.

Summer Reads: Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé’s Top Three

Today’s installment in our 2012 Summer Reads series comes from Issue 1 contributor Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. He says:
I’m all over the place with this summer’s selections. Hughes gives me a great lens into the lives of Whitman, Capote and Styron, against the gritty backdrop of Brooklyn. Pavel’s lovely memoir, translated from the Czech, is just altogether charming! The third title helps me understand the ruba’i, a two-lined Persian poetic form, with each line split evenly into two hemistitchs. The ruba’i is also known as “taraneh”, meaning “snatch”. This will satisfy my sporadic return to more formalist sensibilities.

 By Evan Hughes, published by Henry Holt and Company

By Ota Pavel, published by Penguin Books

Translated by Peter Avery & John Heath-Stubbs, published by Penguin Classics

Many thanks to Desmond for sharing these titles!

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For more, read Desmond’s “first falling, to get here, ferric by foot” and “: craquelure at the interiors :” in Lantern Review, Issue 1.

To see the rest of this series (and find out what else our contributors have been reading this summer), click here.

What have you been reading this summer? Leave us a comment or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter to let us know.

Friday Prompt: Hybrid & Heterogeneous

LR Issue 5: "The Hybridity Issue" - Call for Submissions
Click to Submit to LR Issue 5 | Deadline: July 15, 2012

Since we’re approaching the end of our Issue 5 reading period, today’s prompt will be our final discussion on the critical notion of hybridity.  Click here for previous posts, which discuss a number of ways we’ve seen contemporary practitioners experiment with hybrid forms, media and language.  Today’s prompt focuses on subject matter derived from hybrid sources, which I’d like to approach through a consideration of Quan Barry‘s poetry.

In an interview for Perihelion, Barry says:

I listen to a lot of NPR, mostly FRESH AIR, and quite a few of the poems [in Asylum] are from segments I’d heard either there or on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Because I’m the kind of person who’s really interested in making connections, in getting really into topics, for ASYLUM, I researched a lot of the poems (for example, the poems about syphilis).

One of these “poems about syphilis,” which appears in the sequence “Plague,” begins:

After three weeks a chancre forms–an ulceration
with a hard edge, springy center–the way a button
feels through a layer of cloth.  Also, the lymph nodes

in the groin begin distorting, swell like vulcanized rubber,
painless though immunologically ineffectual.

Continue reading “Friday Prompt: Hybrid & Heterogeneous”

Friday Prompt: Working With Hybrid Language

LR Issue 5: "The Hybridity Issue" - Call for Submissions
Click to Submit to LR Issue 5

This month, in preparation for Issue 5: “The Hybridity Issue,” we’ve dedicated our Friday Prompts to exploring how collage, mixing and hybridization can be meaningful (and generative) practices for poets interested in exploring the narratives and critical concerns of the Asian American community..  Thus far, we’ve looked at hybrid form and mixed media; today we’ll be talking about hybridized language.

In contemporary poetry, quirky mixtures of the high and low, archaic and contemporary, and the scientific and colloquial are so common that we’re no longer surprised when a writer quotes a religious text–the Bible, for instance–and then, without skipping a beat, relays the one-liner they heard while waiting for an oil change.  This kind of modulation, frequently used for ironic or comedic effect, can also be deployed for more serious purposes–and, I suspect, is a mode we’ve come to embrace because miscegenated language reflects our cultural moment in a way that elegant, seamlessly constructed prose does not.  Just Google “best place to get tacos” or “Jeremy Lin is awesome” and see what comes up.

For many Asian American poets, however, linguistic hybridity is more than just an intellectual exercise.  Many of us are multilingual, or come from families whose histories are told in multiple tongues (two, at least, and sometimes more–I’m thinking here of Korean-Brazilian writer Larissa Min, who writes in the linguistic spaces between Portuguese, English and Korean).  And even if our tongues aren’t split by language, the idea of linguistic difference–our grandparents’ English versus our own, our professors’ English versus our aunties’–is important for more than theoretical reasons.  It’s freighted with cultural, and thus, emotional weight.  Our split tongues matter–even if, as is the case for me, a fourth-generation Japanese American, our “mother tongue” is little more than a myth, a conspicuous silence that, in its marked absence, tells us something about our history. Continue reading “Friday Prompt: Working With Hybrid Language”

Process Profile: Margaret Rhee Discusses “Materials”

Martha Kenney, Amy Shen, Margaret Rhee, Jennifer Beth and Tania Pérez-Bustos

Margaret Rhee is the author of the chapbooks Yellow (Tinfish Press, 2011) and University Dreams (Forthcoming 2012). She is the managing editor of Mixed Blood, a literary journal centered on race and innovative poetics edited by C.S. Giscombe. In April, she curated the literary reading, “Body Maps: A Digital/Real Asian American Feminist Poetics” for the Asian American Women Artists Association. As a new media artist, she works on feminist participatory digital storytelling supporting issues of HIV/AIDS awareness for women incarcerated in the San Francisco Jail. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies and New Media Studies at UC Berkeley. She is a Kundiman fellow. 

For APIA Heritage Month 2012, we are revisiting our Process Profile series, in which contemporary Asian American poets discuss their craft, focusing on their process for a single poem from inception to publication. As in the past, we’ve asked several Lantern Review contributors to discuss their process for composing a poem of theirs that we’ve published. In this installment, Margaret Rhee reflects upon her new media piece “Materials,” which appeared in Issue 4.
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It begins with a drive.  The road up to Santa Cruz from Berkeley is a winding one. Largely known as one of the most dangerous highways in the state, Highway 17 wraps around the Santa Cruz Mountains with sharp pretzel turns and dense traffic on weekday afternoons.  It’s my first trip to Santa Cruz.  And I am driving a big, used silver Volvo station wagon, one bought just a few weeks before. My dear friend and colleague Kate Darling is in the passenger seat helping with Mapquest directions.  We finally arrive safely at our destination, the first ever Science Studies creative writing workshop, organized by Martha Kenney and held at the University of Santa Cruz.

Soon after arriving at the workshop space, we found ourselves having lunch with much admired feminist scholar Donna Harraway.  It was beyond lovely.  Kate and I shared about our drive up.  Donna joked that people in Santa Cruz often say that the road keeps those they don’t want out of Santa Cruz!  In between bites of salad I laughed, not only because this was funny, but because it was probably true.  I laughed out of relief as well, not believing we actually made it up that long winding road.

Our assignment prior to the workshop was to write a creative piece inspired by our scholarship. I was thrilled by the possibility of combining, intersecting, and interweaving theoretical questions I had with poetry/poetic form.  At lunch I wondered what the feedback process would be like for the cross-genre works written for the prompt.

I’m a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies and New Media Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and my interests includes the intersections of science, technology, and race.  But I’m also a poet and new media artist with similar concerns.  I like intersections, interventions, and mutations.

Continue reading “Process Profile: Margaret Rhee Discusses “Materials””

Curated Prompt: Rick Barot – “The Hermit Crab Poem”

Rick Barot

This May, in celebration of APIA Heritage Month, we have asked several respected teachers and writers of Asian American poetry to share writing exercises with us in lieu of our regular Friday Prompts. This week’s installment was contributed by Rick Barot.

Once, I mentored a graduate student who had been obsessively reading the stories of survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombings in World War II.  These stories were horrifying and moving by turns, and my student was consumed by them.  Because she was a poet, it was inevitable that her engagement with the stories would manifest itself in her work.  But here was the problem: she was a comfortably situated Caucasian woman who didn’t feel she had the right to write about this subject matter.  Even more complicated: she wanted to write poems directly in the voices of these survivors, making her use of the material doubly problematic.  Part of me, of course, wanted to advise the student to step away from the project, because it was simply too fraught with pitfalls that would make the project insurmountable at worst, and awful at the least.  But a larger part of me wanted to advise the student to move forward, which is what I did.

We artists get on a tightrope when we tackle subjects that are beyond the merely personal.  But far from ever trying to dissuade anyone from writing about these subjects, I urge them to head straight into those subjects.  The risks that come with any writing project are in fact the opportunities of that project: they are what make the project worth doing in the first place.  In poetry, there is no such thing as hands-off material.  A poem never fails because of its subject matter—it fails because the poet has inadequately given depth and shape to that subject matter.  Dramatic historical periods, natural disasters, grand personal wounds—writing about these subjects raises the stakes tremendously high when you have to write about them inventively, feelingly, thoughtfully.  You have to be ingenious to avoid failure—or, at the least, ingenuity will allow you to fail well.

Continue reading “Curated Prompt: Rick Barot – “The Hermit Crab Poem””

Process Profile: Andre Yang Discusses “Why I Feel the Way I Do About SB 1070”

Andre Yang | Photo by Mary Yang

Andre Yang is a Hmong American poet from Fresno, California. He is a founding member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), where he actively conducts and participates in public writing workshops. He completed the Creative Writing (Poetry) MFA program at California State University, Fresno, where he was a Philip Levine Scholar, recipient of the Academy of American Poets-sponsored Ernesto Trejo Prize, and the Graduate Dean’s Medalist of the College of Arts and Humanities.  Andre is a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellow, and has attended the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and recently completed an artist residency at the Ucross Foundation.  He co-edited How Do I Begin – A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday, 2011), and his poetry has appeared in Paj Ntaub Voice, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and the chapbook anthology ‘Here is a Pen’ (Achiote Press).

For APIA Heritage Month 2012, we are revisiting our Process Profile series, in which contemporary Asian American poets discuss their craft, focusing on their process for a single poem from inception to publication. This year, we’ve asked several Lantern Review contributors to discuss their process for composing a poem that we’ve published. In this installment, Andre Yang discusses his poem “Why I Feel the Way I Do About SB 1070,” which appeared in Issue 3 of Lantern Review.

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In a way, I have been writing this poem all my life, and considering all the things I discuss in the poem, it really does span my life.  The poem was written to express my feelings about the inception and implementation Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, though I also wanted it to capture my thoughts on the interconnectedness of humanity.

I might not have written “Why I Feel The Way I Do About SB 1070” had I not met Francisco Xavier Alarcón at his Ce Uno One book launch in Sacramento, California.   I overheard Francisco saying he was attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference later that year in Washington D.C. (2011), and since I too was planning to attend the conference, I used that as a conversation starter and approached him.  He mentioned that while in D.C., he would be organizing two off-site Floricanto readings based on his Facebook page, “Poets Responding to SB 1070,” and that well-established poets like Martín Espada would be taking part in the reading.  Five minutes into the conversation, he asked, to my complete surprise, if I wanted to participate in the readings. I said I’d be honored, and told him I’d contact him when I felt I had a poem worthy of the purpose.

Continue reading “Process Profile: Andre Yang Discusses “Why I Feel the Way I Do About SB 1070””

Process Profile: Vikas K. Menon Discusses “Othertongue”

Vikas K. Menon

Vikas K. Menon is a poet and playwright whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as burntdistrict, diode, and The Literary Review, among others.  His poetry manuscript godflesh was a finalist for the 2010 Kinereth Gensler Award and a semifinalist for the Beatrice Hawley award, both from Alice James Books.   His poetry has been featured in Indivisible:  An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry and is forthcoming in The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry by Indians.  He is a board member of Kundiman, the first organization of its kind dedicated to supporting Asian-American poetry and is the Resident Playwright of Ruffled Feathers Theater company. 

For APIA Heritage Month 2012, we are revisiting our Process Profile series, in which contemporary Asian American poets discuss their craft, focusing on their process for a single poem from inception to publication. This year, we’ve asked several Lantern Review contributors to discuss their process for composing a poem that we’ve published. In this installment, Vikas K. Menon discusses his poem “Othertongue,” which appeared in Issue 3 of Lantern Review.

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My writing process is both fitful and fickle:  at the beginning of a writing session, I tend to move quickly among drafts to see which pieces pull me into further play.  This method has allowed me to elude the blocks that used to plague my writing life.  “Other Tongue” started in quick sketches; in this case, with a freewrite about my struggles with my parents’ ancestral tongue, Malayalam.  Malayalam is a Dravidian language that is outside of the Indo-European family of languages, and it is primarily spoken in the South Indian state of Kerala.  While I can comprehend Malayalam when it is spoken colloquially, I am otherwise illiterate in the language.  Since it was the language of intimacy used by my elders during my childhood, I am ashamed by my inability to speak it fluently.  But I can still revel in its aural pleasures and rolling cadences, its stark contrasts with English.  So I began writing into the texture of it, exploring the strangeness of its syllables in my mouth.  At the same time, I was working on a separate poem that explored my mother’s English, which is heavily inflected by Malayalam.  Finally, I realized that the two poems were linked by their exploration of the difficulties of articulation.  Despite that theme, paradoxically, the poem works quite well at readings: there is initial laughter at my mother’s malapropism that quickly turns to silent discomfort.  I like that sudden turn, something the poet and performer Regie Cabico does beautifully.