LR at the American Bookbinders Museum: A Celebration of National Poetry Month

LR at ABM

Happy National Poetry Month! We’re back from AWP Los Angeles and are ready to take on April full-steam ahead.

This month, we are pleased to announce that Lantern Review is collaborating with the American Bookbinders Museum, a new and incredibly unique space in San Francisco that’s dedicated to the history of bookbinding, to celebrate National Poetry Month. Together with the museum, we’ll be producing two special events that showcase Asian American poetry in conversation with bookmaking and the printed page:

On April 16th at 7 pm, we will be hosting a reading at the museum featuring six award-winning Asian American poets (Barbara Jane Reyes, Brynn Saito, Debbie Yee, Candy Shue, Jason Bayani, and Monica Mody) who will be presenting work that explores the thematic connections between bookbinding, paper, Asian American history, and the San Francisco Bay Area itself. Books will be for sale after the reading, and poets will be available to sign copies for audience members. Admission is $5.00 ($2.50 for students, children under 10 free; no one will be turned away for lack of funds), with all proceeds going toward supporting the museum’s operations. (Please see our Facebook event for this reading here.)

We also invite you to join us on April 21st from 5:30 to 8:00 pm, when we’ll take over the museum’s regular Third Thursday event with more Asian American poetry. For this free, public, drop-in event, mounted broadsides of some of the poems read on the 16th will be on display in the museum’s gallery, and visitors will be able to interact with and respond to the work in the context of the binding and printing machines and archival materials in the gallery by creating hand-crafted mini poetry chapbooks of their own. (Please see our Facebook event for this evening here.)

Both events will take place in the American Bookbinders Museum’s building at 355 Clementina Street, San Francisco, CA 94103. If you’re based in the Bay Area, we hope you’ll be able to come out and join us on one or both evenings! We are so excited to get to partner with the museum and (now that we are officially based in the Bay) are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate Poetry Month by highlighting some of the amazing Asian American poetry that is being produced right in our backyard.

What will you be doing to celebrate National Poetry Month this year? Will you be attending any local events celebrating Asian American poetry in your community? Please let us know about them in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook—we’d love to help you spread the word!

The LR Guide to AWP 2016

The LR Guide to AWP 2016

It’s that time of year again! AWP 2016 starts this week, and as has been our tradition in the past, we’ve put together a guide to APIA poetry-related happenings at the conference, featuring panels, readings, and offsite events that might be of interest to our readers, below. As a bonus, we’ve also created a free companion to the bookfair that you can download at the end of this post. So get out your planners and calendar apps! We hope you’ll find this information useful—but even more so, we hope you’ll enjoy getting to engage with the extraordinary wealth of events celebrating the creation, dissemination, and teaching of APIA poetry at AWP this year.

Please note: this list is by no means comprehensive. We have tried our best to curate a sampling of APIA poetry- and publishing-related items below, but we encourage our readers to check out any of the vast number of other panels, readings, and offsite events featuring individual APIA writers (including many past LR contributors) at the conference this year.

Where to Find Us

The Lantern Review team will be attending the conference this year, but unlike in previous years, we won’t be stationed at a table in the bookfair. Instead, you can find us floating around at some of the panels and readings listed below. We’ll also be selling books for Kundiman at the Literaoke offsite event on Friday night, and you can catch us at the Asian American literary caucus on Thursday evening. We’d love it if you stopped by to say “hello”!

Can’t make it out to Los Angeles for the conference but still want to be in the know? Follow us on Twitter or Instagram (@LanternReview) for live updates throughout the weekend.

Panels and Readings

Thursday, March 31st

9:00 am to 10:15 am

R115. The Active Politics of Queer/Feminist of Color and Indigenous Feminist Publishing Movements. (Lisa Moore, Felicia Montes, Audrey Castillo, Kim Tran, Casandra Lopez) | Room 408 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

R117. Welcome to the Party: Asian American Open Mics in Southern California as Sites of Resistance. (Janice Sapigao, Eddy M. Gana, Jr., Myca Tran, Stephanie Sajor, Sean Miura) | Room 409 AB, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Continue reading “The LR Guide to AWP 2016”

How to Prepare for a Conference: Three Simple Tips for Writers

 

Iris's AWP Essentials
One LR editor’s AWP essentials: pens, tablet, notebook, lip balm, snacks, and business cards

AWP 2016 is just around the corner (it’s hard to believe that it’s already next week!), and the Lantern Review team is hard at work preparing to dive into the fray. We’ve written in the past about how important it is for writers of color to optimize community-building opportunities at AWP and conferences like it. That’s easy enough to do if you’re somewhat established and have contacts within an existing network. But for emerging writers, networking at big conferences can sometimes feel anonymous and bewildering. During my first writing conference, I had no idea how to begin connecting with people. What was the appropriate way to strike up a conversation with a poet after a reading? Was I supposed to bring copies of my CV to the bookfair with me? I ended up figuring out most of these things by trial and error. (For the record, there’s no need for CVs at the bookfair!)

Since then, I (and we, as a team here at Lantern Review) have been to many more conferences. We’ve been the editors standing behind the bookfair table talking to first-year MFA students. We’ve been the panelists nodding at shy attendees who’ve worked up the courage to ask us questions. And over the years, we’ve learned that with a little bit of strategic preparation, it’s possible for an emerging writer without many contacts to make a great impression and establish lasting connections at an event of even AWP’s scale.

Here are three simple things that we think every writer should do before a conference in order to lay the groundwork for effective networking:

1. Establish an internet presence.

You’ll meet a lot of people at any conference, but in order to facilitate follow-up, you’ll need to provide your new contacts with a place to land if they look you up online. Of course, not everyone is into social media (and we like what Molly Gaudry has to say about not trying to fake your enthusiasm for it). But even if you can’t tell a hashtag from a Twitter handle, we highly recommend that you create some way for people to search for and find you on the internet after the conference has ended. At the most basic level, we suggest using a free service to set up a simple website or blog for yourself. We know lots of writers who have made great use of sites like Wix and Tumblr, but our personal favorite is WordPress.com, which offers a wide selection of free design templates; employs an easy-to-use interface that doesn’t require coding knowledge; and comes with a powerful website stats plugin that lets you see who is visiting your site and how they’re finding it. However you choose to do it, the following two tips are key: keep the focus of an author website on yourself rather than on a specific book or project of yours (this will give the site greater longevity), and make sure that the full name under which you publish your creative work is in your URL, profile, and/or username (otherwise, readers and editors may have difficulty finding you).

If you already have your own website and/or active social media accounts, the few days before a conference are a good time to make sure that everything there is in order: make sure your most recent publications are listed on your portfolio page; update your author bio and photograph; check that your list of upcoming events is current. After a conference, when you’re no longer interacting with other writers face to face, your web presence is everything, so doing the necessary maintenance work on the front end will enable you to put your best foot forward when you step onto the convention floor.

Continue reading “How to Prepare for a Conference: Three Simple Tips for Writers”

Six Things We’ve Learned from Our Hiatus about the Writing Life

As we announced last week, we’re back and more excited than ever to embark on a new journey with Lantern Review. It’s been a fruitful, restorative two years since we published our last issue, and as we’ve begun to ask ourselves what’s next, we’ve found ourselves reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned by going on hiatus.

Here are a few things we’ve discovered from taking our much-needed rest.

  1. Self-care is important. Nobody can do everything. There are seasons when it is necessary to attend to the non-art-related things in our lives—to family, to one’s health, to relationships, to the keeping of a roof over one’s head. These are the things that enable us to create making art. And it’s imperative not to neglect them if we are to live healthy, fulfilled, and sustainable lives both on and off the page.
  1. Keeping a notebook is a poet’s lifeline. It’s a record of the vital, ongoing dialogue with oneself, one’s art, one’s reading. Observations, notes, drafts of book reviews, quotations—when kept in a notebook, they become a record of the poetic sensibility in motion.
  1. Poetry can create family, but sustaining that family requires work. When we started LR in 2009, we were still MFA students, not too long out of college, and, like most young poets of color, hungering after a community to call our own. Over the years, our work on LR has provided us with a rare gift, in that it has made our chosen literary family uniquely accessible to us. So when we made a conscious choice to step back from the magazine, we had to find other ways to engage. What we learned in the months that followed is that often, community is one what makes of it. Sometimes it finds you on its own, but for the most part, one must seek it out, carving it out of the rock if necessary, to survive. How does one do this? By reading more books by poets of color. By writing to those poets. By bringing them into your spaces. By teaching their work in your classroom. Poetry knits artists together, but like any family, it takes effort to foster growth and belonging.

Continue reading “Six Things We’ve Learned from Our Hiatus about the Writing Life”

LR News: We’re Back!

Iris and Mia say, "Hooray! We're back!"
LR cofounders Iris and Mia announcing the good news.

That’s right—we’re back! We’ve officially ended our hiatus and are thrilled to announce that we’re rested and ready for this new season of Lantern Review.

For the very first time, our cofounders are living on the same coast, not to mention in the same geographic region: the San Francisco Bay Area! We look forward to discovering what it means to rebuild our editorial endeavor in the context of the Bay Area’s thriving literary arts scene, in the wonderful company of so many other editors, poets, publishers, and artists of color. We also foresee many more exciting opportunities to cultivate regionally based community, though we’ll continue to function with our national and international readership in mind.

Along with an eventual relaunch of the magazine, you can expect new, exciting content on our blog, which we’ll continue to update regularly, and a fresh look—which, hopefully, you’re already enjoying. We’re starting small, but, as before, our goal is to provide a clear, up-to-date sense of what’s happening in the Asian American poetry scene and areas of related interest.

Later this month, you can also expect to see us at AWP. We’ll be there, cruising the book fair, attending panels, and looking to connect with Lantern Review readers and contributors—both past and future. We’ll be posting more soon about where we’ll be during the conference, so if you plan to attend, be sure to look out for that information, and please come find us in LA!

For now, stay tuned for more updates on our blog, and if we don’t see you at AWP 2016, we hope we’ll get to hang out with you sometime in the Bay!

LR News: A Season for Sabbath

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)

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.

* * *

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

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

* * *

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.

Continue reading “2 Poets, 4 Questions: Q&A with Neil Aitken and Rumit Pancholi”

LR News: Issue 6 Is Here!

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

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).

* * *

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.

Continue reading “2 Poets, 4 Questions: Q&A with Eugenia Leigh and Hossannah Asuncion”