It’s that time again, and we’re headed off to the second Smithsonian APA Literature Festival this weekend in DC! Come visit us in the Literary Lounge on Friday, where we’ll be giving away awesome stickers featuring some of our contributors, as well as (in keeping with this year’s festival’s theme of “Care and Caregiving”) little poetry care kits designed to provide literary inspiration, activities for creative renewal, and prompts for the writer in need of self-care. Whether it’s tenderness, solidarity, or play that you need, we hope you’ll take a kit home this weekend to nourish your own creative practice or to share one with someone dear to you. The activities and writing prompts included can easily be adapted to share with kids, as well—so if you’re a parent or a teacher of a creative young person, we hope you’ll stop by, too! (Iris will be behind the table and would love to have a conversation with you about APA poetry in the classroom or APA books for young readers.) See you in DC!
Get ready—the summer 2019 installment of our email newsletter, Lumen, drops on Friday, and it’s one for the books! For Lumen no. 7, we’ve asked some of our Issue 7.2 contributors to share the can’t-miss, APA-authored books that are top of their reading lists this summer. From Ocean Vuong to Seema Reza, this edition of Lumen is packed with fantastic reading recommendations. We can’t wait to dive into the titles they recommend ourselves—and hope you’ll discover a new favorite read or two, as well!
If you’re already subscribed to Lumen, you can look forward to receiving this season’s letter in your inbox on Friday morning. And if you aren’t yet a subscriber, not to worry; there’s still time to make sure you won’t miss out! Follow the link below or click on the image at the top of this post to sign up:
We hope this issue of Lumen provides you with some great inspiration—and would love to hear what’s on your reading list this summer!
Light and peace always,
Iris, Mia, and Irene
In honor of Pride Month, we’re sharing spoken word artist Arhm Choi Wild‘s poem “At What Cost,” an intimate exploration of the price of claiming queer identity in many Asian and Asian American communities, here on the blog. This powerful piece requires little explanation—but in keeping with our goal to be a space that seeks to highlight not just Asian American poetic production but also craft, process, and performance, we’ve also asked the poet to reflect upon about the writing of this poem and what it meant to her. Here is Wild—in her own words.
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I wrote this poem when I was living in Seoul in an attempt to relearn the language that I had lost for the sake of assimilating into my American privilege. I lived there for six months, a foreigner in my homeland, to gather any Korean that would allow me to talk freely with my mother. If I were more fluent in Korean, could she understand my queerness and therefore accept it? If I had the words to express how, despite her fears, I was loved by a chosen family, would she be able to open her heart? If I gained this depth, would that make up for the closet I had agreed to live in while living in Korea?
I started to wonder if the hyphen in my Asian-American identity meant that I was constantly working an equation: my homeland at the cost of my full self, physical affection at the cost of queerness. Though this poem doesn’t imagine the ideal world where we all are allowed to be ourselves without apology, I wanted to show how complicated the deals are that we broker in order to love not only the motherland but also the self that simultaneously belongs and remains a stranger. Pride is such an important month to celebrate because of these equations that often point to loss—and that we continue to strive to claim what is ours despite the potential of a closed door or a door that only allows part of us inside.
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Arhm Choi Wild
At What Cost
Gay people don’t exist in Seoul, South Korea
don’t get dragged behind cars or dream of lynching ropes
don’t scream underneath burning houses or the fire hose
don’t orgasm, don’t lose their teeth and then their dentures
don’t forget their tampons, don’t make love in the bathtub
and again on the floor because they have fallen in love twice
that day, don’t run a finger over a cheek, wake up for a second
to pull themselves closer, don’t pick up a hammer to bust in
an idea, don’t dream, don’t fuck, don’t say I love you, don’t
dream of fucking to say I love you, don’t skip brushing their teeth
don’t try to stay friends with their exes, because in Korea
gay people don’t exist.
But let me tell you what does.
Let me tell you what has come
from this homophobia
turned homo-blind on these streets
where glamorous ginkgo trees
A group of boys moves off the sidewalk
to give me space.
Boy on left with his hand in back pocket
of boy in the middle who reaches over
to brush the hair out of other boy’s eyes,
all three laughing,
all free to show love in this homo-blind world.
I walk past the boys, duck into a food stall.
It’s cold so I ask for the hot fish soup,
look up from styrofoam cup
to see a woman with her hand on the thigh of a friend,
a finger going up to wipe off a cheek and kiss it
all as part of the conversation
easy like punctuation marks, regular like periods.
My family is no different.
My aunt walks down the street holding my hand
as cars rush by kicking up the dirty ginkgo leaves.
Later that day, another relative talks to me
with the help of her hand on my knee
because I can’t speak deep in Korean.
They touch me with no idea
of what a woman’s hands have meant to me,
how the ways they curl around a coffee cup
or flip through a book have turned me on.
In my motherland,
I don’t dare ask how to say “gay“
because I’m afraid the word
At what cost
can men get the affection
they need from other men?
At what cost
do I turn all past lovers into men,
Sarah into Samuel, Megan into Mark?
At what cost
will I come out to my family
and have them still see me?
It is for the cost of loving this country,
of finally feeling like I fit in,
like I have found the people
to whom I belong.
Gay people don’t exist in Korea,
and I am holding back a tongue
that could break this mirage
because seeing men not afraid to hold hands
and fix each other’s ties is too beautiful—
beautiful like a kiss
in the naked soft of morning,
beautiful like a mother
welcoming her daughter home.
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Arhm Choi Wild is a Kundiman fellow from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. She was a finalist for the Jake Adam York Prize in 2019 and has been published in the anthology Daring to Repair by Wising Up Press and in the magazines Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, Split this Rock, Foglifter, Two Hawks Quarterly, TRACK//FOUR, Peal, Otoliths, and Scholars & Rogues. She has worked as an
educator in New York City for the last six years and has competed in poetry slams and performed across the country, including at Brave New Voices, the New York City Poetry Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Michigan Theater, and Asheville WordFest.
Though APA Heritage Month officially concluded a couple of weeks ago, for so many of us, the necessity of engaging with lineage in our craft is a continual process that doesn’t just end on May 31st. Summer is finally here—a season that is often a time of great output, especially for writers who live on an academic calendar. Hence, this month’s post looks to some of the “greats” from within the APA literary community for inspiration on writing into history. Drawing from recent works by Marilyn Chin, Li-Young Lee, and Paisley Rekdal, we’ve gathered three writing prompts to energize your own writing practice this summer.
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1. Write into a manifesto (Marilyn Chin, A Portrait of the Self as Nation, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018).
In Marilyn Chin’s most recent collection of poetry, A Portrait of the Self as Nation, Chin’s feminist manifestos serve as sharp reminders of how poetry is deeply intertwined with the body. In “Brown Girl Manifesto (Too),” for instance, Chin mocks and subverts the literary lineage of Orientalism:
“I am your parlor rug your chamber bauble
Love me stone me I am all yours
Pound Pound my father’s Ezra”
Through the use of wit and wordplay, “Brown Girl Manifesto (Too)” exposes how modernist poets like Pound chose to uphold their own fantasies and projections rather than engage seriously with existing Asian literary traditions. By summoning sense and sensation in her criticism, Chin evokes the body in all its glorious volatility, asserting fantasy on her own terms and in her own tone.
For this exercise, reflect on the history, lineage, and intentions that guide your poetics. What events inform your poetic style and themes? What circumstances have made possible the lines you write? For, after, or against whom do you write? List these out, gathering them into a lyrical statement—whether in paragraphs, as with “Postcript: Brown Girl Manifesto, One of Many (2010),” or in clusters of key words, as with “Brown Girl Manifesto (Too).” Write several versions of your manifesto—what happens when you experiment with the tone and the form? Allow your manifesto(s) to guide your future writing.
2. Build shelter in the moment before (Li-Young Lee, The Undressing, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018).
The second section of “Our Secret Share,” a poem from Li-Young Lee’s most recent collection The Undressing, takes Indonesia’s social unrest of the 1950s and 60s as its backdrop—but Lee’s focus is not on “the killing,” which “has already started / and will go on into the night / and the next day, night and day, day and night” (42).
Rather, the speaker conjures the moment before the violence, recalling an image of his sister being ferried across the Solo River by a boatman—she stands “still and straight beside her bicycle” as the reflections “slide along beneath them in the water” (42). By centering a fleeting moment of stillness, Lee underscores the permanent and unspeakable loss that lies just beyond the poem’s frame—but he also creates a safe harbor from which the speaker can safely reflect.
Consider a key moment of dramatic tension or revelation. Write about this conflict through the lens of the moment before, developing the image or scene over at least fifteen lines. What happens to the “moment after” when the events that lead up to it have been slowed down and expanded upon through poetry?
3. Stage a critical intervention (Paisley Rekdal, Nightingale, Copper Canyon, 2019).
At the center of Paisley Rekdal’s most recent collection Nightingale is a lyric essay, “Nightingale: A Gloss,” that begins with the Greek myth of Philomela. Questioning Ovid’s retelling of the myth in Metamorphoses, in which Philomela is raped and mutilated by her sister’s husband, weaves a tapestry to communicate her assault, and is transformed into a nightingale, Rekdal asks, “Why should Philomela sing, when our presence only increases her suffering?” (50).
By drawing from research on subsequent retellings of Philomela, Rekdal stages a critical intervention in the literary history of sexual violence. Bringing the speaker’s experiences and Rekdal’s own poetry into the conversation, “Nightingale: A Gloss” ultimately engages with the decision to put language to trauma, returning voice to the survivor: “I stand in the field. I whistle back” (54).
Consider with your own relationship with a character from myth or legend. How have others engaged with this narrative in the past? How do your own experiences resonate or diverge? Write a poem in which you bring these different approaches and intentions into conversation.
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What works by APA literary greats or moments from history have affected or inspired your own craft? Share them with us in the comments or let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we’re excited to announce the launch of our second micro-issue this year! For Issue 7.2, we’ve chosen the title “Home/lands,” inspired by the last line of Leslieann Hobayan’s ethereal “Wedding Departure Haibun,” which asks of us to consider oscillations between belonging and flight as we negotiate home and renegotiate history.
Along with Hobayan’s work, we’ve gathered poems by W. Todd Kaneko, Bryan Thao Worra, Kaysone Syonesa, Amy Uyematsu, Eileen R. Tabios, Brandon Shimoda, and Purvi Shah, as well as striking artwork by Kang Yoo A, Camino Santos, and Jenna Le. Finally, to commemorate the varied landscapes explored by the APA poets and visual artists featured in this investigation of “home/lands,” you’ll also find artifacts from some of our contributors’ personal histories hidden throughout the issue. Look closely, and you’ll see faces from the past reveal themselves in unexpected places. To enter the issue, click here or on the image at the top of this post. We’d love to hear what you think, so leave us a comment below or reach out to us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to share your feedback and reactions.
Much gratitude, as always, for your support and readership.
Peace and Light,
The LR editorial team
Happy Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month! So much is already in motion this May—from Kundiman’s release of a special poetry folio in honor of the occasion to Penguin Books’s addition of four seminal Asian American literary works to their classics series—and over here at LR, we’re excited to be celebrating in our own way, too.
Later this month, we’ve got a brand-new issue focusing on APA history and literary lineage forthcoming, but first, a special APAHM edition of our newsletter, Lumen, featuring four prompts about writing into silence, drops this Friday, May 10th. During APAHM, when we often stop to consider the legacies of injustice and trauma that are written into our histories, it seemed appropriate to address what it means to grapple with silence in our craft, and we hope that the four exercises we’re sharing (each of which is inspired by a different Issue 7.1 contributor’s piece) will inspire and challenge you in your creative practice this May.
If you’re a Lumen subscriber already, you can look forward to seeing the new newsletter in your email inbox first thing on Friday morning. And if you’re not yet subscribed, there’s still time to get on the list to receive this quarter’s letter! Just follow the link below or click on the image at the top of this post to sign up.
A very happy May to you. We look forward to hearing how you might use the prompts we’re sharing in Lumen 6 to inspire your writing this APAHM month—and can’t wait to share Issue 7.2 with you in just a couple of weeks’ time!
Light and peace,
Iris & Mia
Happy National Poetry Month! For our April roundup, we’ve selected three recent APA poetry collections that reflect upon the labor of vulnerability. These ambitious projects employ footnotes, coding syntax, Google Translate, and elegaic and pastoral forms to mine tenderness from the desert, tracing how tendrils may grow where no sun has touched, how hybrid bodies might emerge from our ruins. If you’re aching for sustenance in the midst of a barren season this month, we hope you’ll consider checking out one or more of these gutsy titles.
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Monsters I Have Been by Kenji C. Liu (Alice James Books, 2019)
Monsters I Have Been, Kenji C. Liu’s second collection, meditates on the wreckage left by histories of violence and domination. Fittingly, Liu deploys an original form in this book that he has dubbed “frankenpo”: juxtapositions of footnotes, musical scores, and lines in translation that can divine “new meanings often at odds with the original texts” (1). As Liu writes in “The Monstrosity: Notes Towards a Frankenpo,” the collection’s concluding essay, the frankenpo responds to the idea that “A monstrous presence is needed to respond to monstrous times” (82).
The resulting poems are both playful and rife with pain as they dismantle the bloody logic of imperialism and take apart the brutal performance of heteropatriarchal masculinity. Take “Footnotes to a Murder in the Third Degree,” a poem for Michael Chun Hsien Deng, who was beaten to death in 2015 while being hazed by brothers from his Asian American fraternity. Masculine identity defined by violence leaves the body of the poem, the mourned boy, absent. What remains are numbered fragments—”We broken brothers, tackling each other with belonging,” reads one footnote (22)—that gesture at the legacies of racism and cultural alienation that motivate cruelty as a mode of kinship. Monsters I Have Been calls for ownership, rather than abandonment, of history’s “indefensible monstrosities” as close as our blood relations: “What new bodies do we need in order to survive and live?” (90). Liu sows lines for new manifestos, for future modes of kaleidoscopic, intimate becoming; his monsters are “Not an attempt to create a new kind of man, but to grow a monster of compassion and ferocity” (88).
Soft Science by Franny Choi (Alice James Books, 2019)
Fears of AI domination revolve around the questions: Can machines think? Can robots become sentient? With glittering poetics, Franny Choi reminds us these are trick questions—the histories of machines and cyborgs have always been inseparable from histories of sentience. In her new collection Soft Science, Choi lends radical softness to ash, coral, cyborg, imaginary girl alike. All are just as vulnerable as we are to the specter of another animal’s rise, an animal that points to us and names us “animal / alien / bitch / stone” (15). Language, then, becomes the double-edged sword that Choi uses to probe moments of violence. In “Jaebal,” for instance, language manipulates and assaults; its failures give way to necessary quiet, a precious harbor and a parallel universe where the speaker is “hardening and bright and filling / my own room” (31), where language can be rediscovered as a tool for making sense and healing. In “The Cyborg Wants to Make Sure She Hears You Right,” Twitter harassment Choi received is run several times through Google Translate, resulting in lines like “flat face fetus,” “uppity, filthy immigrant girl,” and “I go back to my mudhole” (26)—so that the imperfections of layered automatic translation render hate speech as nothing more than a performance of power that falls flat. Just as language can inflict pain, Choi’s poems assert language’s ability to strengthen, to protect, to play.
It is fitting that the cover of Soft Science is a reprint of James Jean’s “Parasola,” a fantastical homage to photographer Ren Hang. When Ren took his life in 2017, he left behind his haunting photographs—of his friends’ nude bodies entwined with birds, pressed up against leaves—that articulated the messy, mutating, and mutilating world of embodied desire in a suppressive society. If Jean’s homage extends Ren’s world to create refuge in a pastel dimension, then Soft Science, too, enacts a process of returning from shelter to scenes of violence, reacquainting world with cyborg self—only this time, with a kinder yet more ferocious touch.
Arabilis by Leah Silvieus, (Sundress Publications, 2019)
In her first full-length collection, Arabilis, Leah Silvieus guides us through life and last breaths, allowing cycles of absence and abundance to unfold in lush lines. In “Field Dressing,” a father shoots a doe; his daughter holds its gutted heart “until it cool[s], then cast[s] it to the dogs.” In “Maryland Route 210 Elegy, Dusk,” the speaker reflects on animals struck by car, bodies curled “as if just borne / into the world” (34). And in an early poem, “So Blonde,” the speaker, a transracial adoptee, fails to will her hair into gold—and out of that failure, finds instead that her hair comes alive, “my horde of snarled darlings, so dark, so generous” (13).
Arabilis, sectioned by the turn of each season, is—as it must be—an exceptionally patient collection, one that observes how “abandoned long enough . . . a place becomes an elsewhere,” as Silvieus writes in “Parousia” (43). Through close observations of street debris, of wasp nests, of the strangling roots of a white swamp oak, Silvieus allows connective tissue to form between the reader and an always brutal, yet always tender, poetic world.
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This month’s poetry round-up features three collections that consider and reconstruct restrictive notions of family, kinship, and relationships. Whether through essayistic reflection, dialogue, or lullaby, the poems from these new works scrutinize the power structures that normalize destructive ways of relating to one another while holding dear the people who can see us with clarity and compassion. We hope these books shed light on the people in your lives who enable transformation, as well as on the poetic techniques that can bear witness to intimacy.
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The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi (Yale University Press, 2019)
“I thought that having myself was not supposed to take any effort” (31), writes Yanyi in one passage of The Year of Blue Water. Like many of the passages in the collection, this paragraph is arranged in the center of a page, as though the speaker himself stands in the middle of a hushed room, addressing his listener candidly. This tender dialogue is essential to the speaker’s transformation throughout the collection. “I have no control of my family,” the speaker writes. “They may leave me; I accept that.” What continues despite of (or rather, because of) the pain and violence of rejection is the project of reconstructing self and identity—possible only because of the constellation of chosen kin in literature and life who can, and will, listen and respond to the speaker.
The difficult transformation at the heart of Year of Blue Water honors bell hooks’s redefinition of love—as “an action rather than a feeling”—in order to emphasize, assume, and honor the accountability and responsibility required of love. For this reason, there is an enchanting affinity between The Year of Blue Water and Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights. Just as Gay commits himself each day to finding a “new delight” to discover, exercising his “delight muscles,” Yanyi commits himself to a type of love that recognizes the intentional activity and labor necessary for loving. Love as feeling, as bell hooks has written, has often been “the stuff of fantasy”; if being queer, trans, and Asian only heightens the incongruity of fantasy and reality, then the action of love must always depend on the act of seeing self and other clearly. The concision of Yanyi’s craft paradoxically speaks to how clarity is a process rather than a state to be achieved—each terse sentence builds on the one before, layering meaning upon meaning. “I am worth the work of transformations,” Yanyi writes. “As in, I do not fear how I will emerge from myself, or how many times” (57).
Mitochondrial Night by Ed Bok Lee (Coffee House Press, 2019)
It seems passé to place Ed Bok Lee’s recent collection within the lineage of travel writing, a genre that by now has been exposed and condemned for its often imperialist and colonialist ambitions. But the literary history of travel writing is also full of spectacular and critical turns, thanks to work by Monique Truong, Bani Amor, and Karen Tei Yamashita, among others, that confronts the legacies of empire, decolonizes tourism, and repurposes the genre to gather up communities forcibly split and scattered.
Mitochondrial Night is a dazzling continuation of this project. In “Metaphormosis,” for instance, the speaker’s mother describes traditional harvesting techniques “not of Korea, or Corea, or North Korea, but Chosun” (5); like the shifts in names and borders for Myanmar or Czechia, this story becomes a journey through kingdoms and imperial transitions that “forced a hiccup in my mother’s recollection” (5). Everyday details, as well as familial lineage, serve as carriages for travel—an “aluminum soda can” (57), “A distant Amtrak” (60), “your thumbnail” (81) are all opportunities to reflect on interconnectedness through sustainable exploration. We need
Anyone Will Tell You by Wendy Chin-Tanner, (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019)
Former LR staff writer Wendy Chin-Tanner’s Anyone Will Tell You is a strikingly musical and melancholic collection that makes much with very little. Many of the poems are careful arrangements of two or three words in each line—a sparse form that Chin-Tanner developed after the birth of her second child. The direct and dynamic relationship between life and art, child and parent, is central to the project of this collection.
For instance, “Index” unravels in fits and starts, line by line: “I confess // I hungered,” the speaker tells us, before recalling, “wait this is // a poem” (14). Interruptions like these force the question: What is a poem, and who holds power over this definition? These questions prove crucial when a pivotal confession arrives several lines later:
“wait I should
say how I
tried to have
and it died” (15).
In the context of the emotional turmoil and the social stigma surrounding miscarriage, infertility, and the female body, Chin-Tanner’s poetry reveals its power as an aesthetic object. As a stunning site of stuttered rewording, Anyone Will Tell You rephrases the alternately devastating and wondrous experiences between self and other that have been scripted by and made unintelligible by exclusionary norms. In Chin-Tanner’s lyrical recursions, silence reemerges into language that holds, rather than abolishes, the unpredictable experiences of self and body. As she writes, “all i could do was make / my eyes see and not blink, and not look away” (30).
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We’re thrilled to announce that, at long last, a brand-new issue of Lantern Review is now live! Issue 7.1, featuring poems by Allison Albino, Jason Bayani, Shamala Gallagher, Preeti Kaur Rajpal, Dujie Tahat, and Annabelle Y. Tseng, and artwork by Sudarsana Mohanty and Leah Oates, is themed around the notion of “transmission” and marks a shift in our publication format: rather than put out one longer issue a year, we’ve instead decided to begin splitting each season’s worth of published work into a series of three slimmer micro-issues, each of which will allow us to explore particular thematic, historical, formal, and/or demographic connections in a more focused manner than before. Issue 7.1, brimming with stunning works that echo with ghostly utterances in their explorations of trauma, prayer, language, family histories, and imagined futures, marks the first of three such themed micro-issues that we’ve planned for our 2019 season.
Additionally, the internet—and the world of online literary publishing—has evolved significantly since we last put out an issue, so for the magazine’s grand return, we’ve also decided to give it a visual facelift. In previous issues, we employed a non-scrolling layout that was intended to visually mimic the traditional two-page spread of a print magazine. In this next generation of the magazine, we’ve taken a step back from that approach. Instead, we’re celebrating the beautifully adaptable space of the browser window or mobile device screen as a visual medium unto itself. This allows us to treat each page of the issue as if it were a digital broadside, overlaying text and image and playing with layers of typography. In issue 7.1, you’ll see, among other innovations, Dujie Tahat’s haunting “when
Though five years have passed since we last read work and prepared an issue for publication, we are so encouraged to see the continuing strength and complexity of the work that is being put out by APA poets in the present moment. From Jason Bayani, an established poet with a touring show and two collections to his name, to Annabelle Y. Tseng, an undergraduate student at Princeton University, the accomplished contributors represented in Issue 7.1 exemplify the depth and diversity of contemporary APA poetry, and we could not be more proud to get to share their work with you.
To enter the issue, click here or on the cover image at the top of this post. We’d love to hear what you think, so leave us a comment here or reach out to us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to let us know. As ever, we’re grateful to our stellar editorial intern Irene Hsu for her invaluable contributions at every stage of putting this issue together, to our gracious and understanding contributors—both for the gift of their work and for waiting patiently for us to work through a myriad of bugs before we finalized the new layout—and to you, our amazing LR community, for your steadfast support. We can truthfully say that without your urging and encouragement, the magazine’s return may never have happened.
A very happy first week of March to you, and endless thanks once again.
Peace and Light,
Iris and Mia
Happy New Year! 2019 promises to be another exciting year in the world of APA poetry, and so thought we’d start the year off with a bang—by celebrating three fantastic new books that are the top of our reading list this January. For this month’s roundup, we’ve gathered three collections that explore lineage lost, erased, revived for the poets to come. They are precious works that speak to the interdependencies and support that are central to writing and bearing witness, generation after generation. We hope you’ll enjoy these books as much as we have and that, in savoring them, you’ll be able to engage in your own times of reflection this January—to consider those who came before and those who will come after.
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Oculus by Sally Wen Mao (Graywolf, 2019)
Sally Wen Mao’s Oculus is a jolting lyric study of the white
Scar and Flower by Lee Herrick (Word Poetry, 2019)
The latest collection from Lee Herrick, Scar and Flower, considers what it means to make room in a brutal system of continuous war, climate disaster, mass shootings, deportations, and suicides. As Herrick builds psychic dwellings for repair, the poems in Scar and Flower bring to mind the etymology of “stanza”—a room, a resting point, a space to breathe. By drawing from familiar words and worlds, Herrick gives dimension to these spiritual spaces: the sky’s numerous stars are a reminder of his heritage as a man “born on the other side / of the world” (46); water reminds us of our “resting state” (23); the body is “a song called birth,” venturing out into the world, seeking out and losing its lyrics (48). Lee’s rhapsodic moments return to inherent contradictions of pain and desire—and guide the reader as these knots are worked out through communion with self, other, and
Loves You by Sarah Gambito, (Persea, 2019)
Reading Loves You by Sarah Gambito is like thumbing through a grandmother’s scrawled cooking notes, like setting the table for one’s chosen family. Central to Gambito’s collection are poem-recipes, which gain significance through context—“Watermelon Agua Fresca (For When You Need Me),” for instance, takes the form of a list of instructions but ends as a subtle, loving address: “Serve in ice-filled glasses and know how much I love you” (64). At the same time, cooking, as in the poem “Cento,” can just as easily become absorbed, commodified, and twisted into demands for a domestic worker to “do the food,” followed up by: “You cannot cook Filipino food in the kitchen” (18). Even as Gambito never lets her readers forget that love, too, is labor shaped by the legacies of capitalism, imperialism, and colonization, Loves You is a crucial reminder that cutting up chicken and piping lychee cream can be sacred gestures of abundant love, crucial links to homes an ocean away.
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What poetry collections have you been reading to start out your new year? And what books are you looking forward to in the coming months? Share them with us in the comments or let us know onTwitter, Facebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).