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.
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.
Purvi Shah’s Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press, 2006), which explores migration as potential and loss, won the Many Voices Project prize and was nominated for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award. Her work fighting violence against women earned her the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Services Award in 2008. In 2011, she served as Artistic Director for Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight the voices of Asian Americans during the 10th anniversary of 9/11. She believes in the miracle of poetry and the beauty of change. Check out more of her work at http://purvipoets.net or @PurviPoets on Twitter.
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 poem (or group of poems) 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, Purvi Shah discusses her poems, “’Some didn’t make it. Some did.’” and “’This is MY NY.’”, which appeared in Issue 4.
Some say this is woman’s territory: to know what is unspoken in the midst of what is spoken.
It is also territory of the poet, who in lyric enacts what is said, what we fear to say, and yet what we must make known without it ever being said.
Conversation 6: Split This Rock
We were asked, when dialoguing after sharing excerpts of Together We Are New York—a community-based project with Kundiman poets honoring the voices of Asian Americans as part of the 10th anniversary of 9/11—whether it was difficult to write poems in response to conversations with community members. After all, to capture an individual’s story or fullness of experience is a mighty task. Even many biographers fail. So how does a poet approach someone’s horizon?
Zohra Saed, who had interviewed her charming father for the project, astutely responded how she realized in the process of this writing that her poems had always been in conversation—previously, she had just been talking to herself. As the audience chuckled, I marveled at the truth of Zohra’s humor-filled revelation and thought about the layers of conversation embedded in my poems, including these I had written for Together We Are New York.
We often think about the buzz poems create but not the buzz that creates poems. Then again, flight—or fall—is rarely one way.
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 storytellingsupporting 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.
* * *
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.
Tarfia Faizullah’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, New Ohio Review, Passages North, Poetry Daily, Crab Orchard Review, Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she received her MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as the associate editor of Blackbird. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Writers Conference Margaret Bridgman Scholarship, a Kenyon Review Writers Workshop Peter Taylor Fellowship, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and other honors. She lives in Washington, DC, where she helps edit the Asian American Literary Review and Trans-Portal.
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, Tarfia Faizullah reflects upon her poem “At Zahra’s Salon for Ladies,” which appeared in Issue 4.
* * *
It actually did begin at Zahra’s Salon, with my head tilted back.
Auntie Neelam and I never spoke, though she has always been gentle with me and I have never gone to another stylist.
That day at the salon, Ghulam Ali’s song Chupke, Chupke began to play.
It had been many, many summers since I had last heard that song.
My younger self rose up.
I went home and began to try to affix the atmosphere of the salon, the deft, elegant movements of Auntie Neelam’s fingers.
I listened to Chupke, Chupke over and over again.
I called my mother, cradled the phone against my shoulder to take notes while she translated Chupke, Chupke for me.
I began to remember that other, younger summer.
The summer I had started growing out of my swimsuit.
How bewildered I was, how frightened by all that dark hair shadowing across me.
“I can feel that other day running underneath this one,” Anne Carson wrote, and similarly, I strongly felt the summer of my youth below that present one.
As adults, we take for granted the agency we have to strip our bodies of their darkness.
The poem has always been in second person. It had to be so that I could clearly see both my younger and adult selves as I was addressing them.
“At Zahra’s Salon” took me two years to write.
I am interested in the possibilities of collage, of braiding together multiple elements.
I love David Shields’s assertion of collage as “a demonstration of the many becoming the one, with the one never fully resolved because of the many that continue to impinge on it.”
It took two years to try to weave together the salon, the song, and those other summers while ensuring each element remained singular and intact.
One day, I asked Auntie Neelam about her life.
She was born and raised in India, and is married and has a child.
I think she was as startled as I was.
She started telling me about her wedding day.
I remembered my own wedding, the way my body was purified, decorated, posed.
She gave me a mishti.
I left the salon, my face smarting.
One of the red brick walls was covered in clematis vine.
The sky was so blue.
I wanted to write a poem that could dwell in nostalgia, that could dwell in those first feelings of hunger without fully leaving the present.
I wanted to write a poem that acknowledged the beauty and terror of solitude.
This week’s Digital Broadside, which features Janine Joseph’s “Narrative” from LR Issue 4, was designed by Bethany Hana Fong, an SF-Bay-Area-based artist and designer whose black and white portraits of her grandfather appeared in Issue 2. We love the way that the quirky, collage-like nature of Bethany’s design echoes the fractured whimsy of the narrative tellings in Janine’s poem. We also like the effect that designing each version (printable and wallpaper) in a different orientation had on the possibilities for reading the poem itself. While the print version preserves the original (vertical) arrangement of stanzas, the wallpaper version floats them side-by-side into a matrix-like grid, so that the stanzas can be read in juxtaposition, as well as linearly. Both versions of Bethany’s beautiful design can be downloaded over at our “Digital Broadsides” page.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our Digital Broadside series this April. And as National Poetry Month draws to a close, we hope you’ll consider telling us about what you did with the broadsides that you downloaded. Did you hang a copy somewhere unusual? Did your new wallpaper or cubicle decoration lead to any interesting conversations? Did having a poem on your desktop or physical wall inspire you in your own writing life in some way? We’d love to hear your stories— leave us a comment, post a note on our Facebook Wall, or Tweet us to share!
I was led to design Neil Aitken’s “Memory” because of the poem’s vivid play on the concept of memory and its correlation with “the sum of mere data.” It awoke something nostalgic in me, and I was organically drawn to these lovely lines: “What is memory? / And who is it that slips in at these odd hours … / Who is it that stirs upstairs in my mind … / Here, my father is alive again, once more…”
In the same breath, after learning the intent of Aitken’s poem and its connection with Charles Babbage, I researched the life of Babbage and began to design the poem organically. Designing tends to be a visceral experience for me, and as a result, the visual themes of absence and gradient holes took hold. I hope I designed a broadside that is pleasurable to Aitken and the heart of the poem.
I think it’s safe to say that Melissa has successfully captured at least our hearts with her gorgeously illustrated design!
Melissa’s lovely interpretation of “Memory” is available in two forms—as a printable .pdf, and as a desktop wallpaper—and can be downloaded at our “Digital Broadsides” page. We hope that you’ll download both—and that, especially if you hang or leave a copy of the printed version in a public space, you’ll share a picture with us (on Facebook, on Twitter, or by email), and tell us about any stories that might be generated when others encounter it.
Happy Friday, everyone! As we explained in our update on Monday, we’re celebrating National Poetry Month this year by offering a series of free Digital Broadsides, designed by Asian American designers (many of whom are poets themselves), and featuring poems from past issues of LR. Today’s broadside, which showcases R.A. Villanueva’s “Vanitas” from Issue 4, was designed for us by the talented Debbie Yee, a poet, Kundiman Fellow, and print artist who lives and works in San Francisco. Debbie’s design for “Vanitas” is available for download in two formats—as an 8.5″ x 11″ printable .pdf, and as a desktop wallpaper (in three different sizes, to fit screens with 4:3, 16:10, and 16:9 aspect ratios, respectively). Click here to visit our new “Digital Broadsides” page, where you can download the broadside in your format of choice.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, Debbie often combines her interests in the visual with her writing and knowledge of bookmaking in order to produce beautiful short-run chapbooks and other pieces of literary art. For her latest project, which is funded by a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, she has committed to giving away 100 copies of her own handmade chapbook, Handmade Rabbit Society, in exchange for each recipient’s sharing the name of a self-published or small- or micro- press chapbook that he or she has purchased in the last 18 months. The goal of this exchange project, Debbie writes on her web site, is to turn more “people on to the chapbook format and [introduce] the work of emerging poets and writers.” You can read more about Debbie’s project and find out how to participate on her site, Linocat.
We hope that you’ll take a moment to download, print, and post Debbie’s beautiful interpretation of “Vanitas” somewhere where others can see and encounter it—perhaps a bathroom stall, a classroom, a bulletin board, a door, a refrigerator. If you post a copy somewhere public or have stories to share about what happens when you do, we’d love to hear about it. Send us an email (editors [at] lanternreview dot com) with a photo and an explanation, or, if you’re on Facebook, upload a picture of where you hung the broadside, and tag us! (@Lantern Review). When National Poetry Month is over, if we gather enough stories and photos, we’ll do a little feature post highlighting some of our favorites here.
Tipping the scales at a hefty 81 pages (if virtual pages could be weighed), this issue is—we feel—our best yet. We’ve done things slightly differently this time, updating the look of our cover and choosing to include at least three substantial excerpts of longer projects or series, as well as a new media piece by Margaret Rhee (for which we broke our “no scrolling” rule). We’ve also decided to intersperse a series of black-and-white images by a single artist (Darwin Cruz) amongst the poems to serve as a sort of “thread” that runs throughout the body of the text, and have chosen to incorporate not just poetry, but also photography, into our Community Voices feature on “Double Exposures: Documenting War at Home” (a youth writing workshop that was held at the AAWW last summer).
Issue 4’s contributor list includes poets Neil Aitken, Bethany Carlson, Tarfia Faizullah, Janine Joseph, Monica Mody, Margaret Rhee, Purvi Shah, Sushil Sivaram, R.A. Villanueva, Bryan Thao Worra, and Timothy Yu, as well as photographer Darwin Cruz and teen artists Susan Li, Jenny Lu, and Kathy Tran. “Double Exposures” teachers and administrators Anna Li Sian, Julie Jamora, Cathy Linh Che, and Solmaz Sharif also contributed the collaboratively-written introduction that begins the Community Voices section.
To enter the issue, click here, or on the cover image at the top left of this post.
We hope that you enjoy Issue 4, and would love to hear what you think of it—simply drop us a line at editors [at] lanternreview(dot) com to share your thoughts or to inform us of any technical issues that you might encounter while browsing.
Many thanks, as always, for your continued support of LR.
It’s a new year, and we’re back from our holiday hiatus! We’re working hard on sorting through submissions for Issue 4, and have an exciting next few weeks of posts lined up for the blog. During the remainder of January, you can look forward to two interviews (one with Brenda Hillman, which will go live later this week, and one with Janine Oshiro), a couple of reviews (including one of the HWAC’s NY Times-lauded anthology How Do I Begin?), and more of our regular fare of prompts, column posts, and literary news.
In the meantime, we’ll be putting together the issue, and preparing to exhibit at this February’s AWP conference in Chicago, where we’ll be sharing a table with Kartika Review under the name “The Asian American Literary Collective.” Planning on going to the conference this year? Please let us know, or at least plan to stop by the table — we’d love to meet you in person!