When the AAWW announced the winners of its 2011 Asian American Literary Awards last month, we were thrilled to hear that Issue 3 contributor Oliver de la Paz’s Requiem for the Orchard had been named 1st finalist in the poetry category (after Kimiko Hahn, who won for Toxic Flora, and before Molly Gaudry, who was named 2nd finalist for We Take Me Apart). But Oliver is not the only one of our friends and contributors who has had exciting news this season. Here some recent publications and releases that have shown up on our radar these past few months:
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Marc Vincenz’s The Propaganda Factory (Argotist EBooks 2011)
Contributor Marc Vincenz’s new e-book The Propaganda Factorywas released by Argotist EBooks this past August. In this short collection (which includes “Taishan Mountain,” a poem that first appeared in LR issue 2), Marc weaves together layers of history and geography through an ever-shifting range of lenses that take us from the level of the microscopic to the realm of the galactic at a moment’s notice. It is available for download here.
Kim Koga’s ligature strain (TinFish Press 2011)
Issue 3 contributor Kim Koga now has a chapbook (ligature strain) out with TinFish. In this linked sequence, which was published as #6 in TinFish’s current retro chap series, Kim floods the page and the mind’s eye with feverish, liquidly intense imagery that involves birth, echolocation, pink and white flesh, and lots of fetal beavers (yes, the actual animal). Be on the lookout for more about ligature strain later this month.
Marc Vincenz was born in Hong Kong to Swiss-British parents during the height of the Cultural Revolution. Later, he lived and worked in Shanghai for many years running an industrial design company. More recently, he moved to Iceland where he now works as a freelance journalist, poet, translator and literary critic. He is Poetry and Non-Fiction Editor for the international webzine Mad Hatters’ Review, Managing Editor of MadHat Press, and a member of the editorial board of the Boston-based Open Letters Monthly.
Marc’s recent poems have appeared in, or are forthcoming in Spillway, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poets/Artists, Nth Position, Möbius The Poetry Magazine, MiPOesias, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, FRiGG, the nervous breakdown, elimae and Inertia. A chapbook, Upholding Half the Sky, was published as part of the MiPOesias Chapbook Series by GOSS183: Casa Menendez (2010). A new chapbook, The Propaganda Factory, is forthcoming from Argotist ebooks later this year.
In this year’s May Process Profile series, we’ve been asking several Lantern Review contributors whose work gestures back toward history or legacy to discuss their process for composing a poem of theirs that we’ve published. In this installment, Marc Vincenz discusses his poem “Taishan Mountain,” which appeared in Issue 2.
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It happens sometimes, particularly if I am sitting up late at night attacking a blank sheaf of paper, I’ll suddenly hit upon a line, probably something totally unrelated to the piece I’m attempting, but a line that seems to ring true of its own volition. In “Taishan Mountain,” the particular line that arrived was: “It’s here, hovering on China’s precipice, / the Chairman proclaims the East is Red, / deems himself ruler of all he beholds.” When I’ve captured what I think may be at the heart of a poem, or narrative, I leave it for a day or two. I let it sit there, all alone on the page, occasionally going back to it, staring at it, meditating upon it. Quite often what I consider my better lines “arrive” when I’m dozing—not quite in sleep—but falling towards it; to quote my own poem, “hovering on the precipice.”
In this fashion, while considering the event on Taishan Mountain, this shadow appeared. At first I thought it might be a woman—perhaps Jiang Qing (Mao’s last wife and leader of the so-called Gang of Four)—standing beside the little-big man as he conquered the world atop China’s fabled Taishan Mountain. I soon realized that this persona, and consequently the narrator, was actually an unknown man. I’m not sure how; perhaps it had something to do with his posture. And this man was not even Chinese. (Actually, during the course of the Communist accession to power, numerous foreigners advised Mao). I wondered, of course: what if Mao’s most trusted advisor had been an unknown da bizi, and what if this person had been his secret lover? Now, it’s a fact that Mao liked the ladies, and had innumerable affairs during the course of his reign; but much of his cult of personality is still steeped in mystery—as it is, of course, with many fated or fateful leaders. There is this incessant need to expose something as yet undiscovered, that one might better grasp his actions. On Taishan Mountain, a foreign man with a moustache changes our perception of everything we’ve held true until now.
Finally, “Taishan Mountain” is a poem within a collection based on my own real and imagined experiences in China: an attempt at a deeper conversation with a country where I spent much of my life. At some stage I realized that you can only start to “understand” the Middle Kingdom by breaking down Western notions of its foreignness. In reality, love in China is as any love affair might be: passionate probably, heartbreaking maybe, but surely as potentially hard—or fertile—as any red earth anywhere in the known universe. And, of course, it too has the potential to change our perceptions of the world.
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Excerpt from “Taishan Mountain”
On Revolution: You must not move with excessive haste, nor use excessive ruthlessness against the people. – the I-Ching, The Book of Changes
On Taishan Mountain behind the fog
we wait for first glimpses of dawn.
It’s here, hovering on China’s precipice,
the Chairman proclaims the East is Red,
deems himself ruler of all he beholds.
I’m standing right beside him.
We’ve just fought a war, he’s so thin,
and he has this steely glint
as if he’s stumbled across some great illumination.
It’s a moment of connection with the universe,
a revelation beyond normal human comprehension,
something to make history, like Einstein
unravelling the universal laws
of energy and mass and motion.
Valentine’s Day, with its often-saccharine greeting card verses and glossy commercial sentiments (not to mention its frequent misquotations of everyone from Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson), is at hand once again, and what better time of year than to give that tricky (and oft-abused) specimen—the love poem—a subversive spin? I’m not talking about writing penny dreadfuls or anguished emo laments (we are not Death Cab for Cutie here). I’m talking about defying expectation completely with regards to what a “love poem” is and/or should be. In a sense, the love poem (as it is known in contemporary popular culture) is very much akin to the ode, in that the tone and subject matter of its address tends to elevate the “you” with the use of high language and often ornate imagery. The purpose of the exercises that follow are to invite you to write against this sense of elevation while still retaining, in some way, at least a loose engagement with the intimacy, tenderness, or intensity of the close gaze in which the speaker of a love poem might hold the object of his or her affection. To, in short, write against and across cliché and into something that is bold, surprising, and new.
Prompt: Write an “unromantic” love poem. Some ideas: