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”

Poetry in History: Engaging the Legacy of the Vietnam War

In celebration of APIA Heritage Month, we’ll be running a special Poetry in History series once a week in lieu of our Friday prompts. For each post, we’ll highlight an important period in Asian American history and conclude with a few ideas that we hope will provoke you to respond. This is the final post in the series, and will feature the legacy of the Vietnam War.

A girl runs screaming down the highway, thick clouds of smoke billowing on the horizon. Burned flesh, bare feet, a haze of napalm: though Nick Ut’s (Associated Press, 1972) iconic image of Phan Thi Kim Phuc running from the smoldering remains of her village was shot almost forty years ago, it remains firmly lodged in the American visual and cultural memory.

The Vietnam War — or, as it is known in Vietnam, the “American War” — began in 1955 and “ended” in 1975 with the fall of Saigon, though its legacy has continued to enact violence of numerous forms on the bodies and minds of individuals and communities into the twenty-first century. War veterans marked by post-traumatic stress, victims of unexploded bombs living on the agrarian hillsides of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, urban communities of Southeast Asian refugees settled in the United States post-1975 — the list goes on. We’ve all seen the photos, but how much do we really know about the United States’ involvement in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia? A Cold War conflict which led to the displacement of millions, over the course of its twenty-year duration, millions of Lao and Vietnamese lives were lost, in addition to those of approximately 60,000 US military personnel. Continue reading “Poetry in History: Engaging the Legacy of the Vietnam War”

Staff Picks: Holiday Reading Recommendations

Whether you’ll be traveling or relaxing at home during the upcoming holidays, it’s a great time to polish off an old reading list or to start in on something new.  As our gift to you this season, and to help you get started on your own holiday reading list, we’ve asked members of the LR Staff to recommend some of their recent favorites.  Here are our suggestions.


Asylum | Quan Barry | University of Pittsburgh Press (2001)

Recommended by Mia: “My holiday reading pick . . . it’s her first collection.  Her engagement with the voices and subjects of the Vietnam War is beautifully executed, and though the scope of her work is much broader, I was most riveted by her ‘war’ poems.”

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Behind My Eyes |
Li-Young Lee | W.W. Norton & Company (2008)

Recommended by Iris: “This is Lee’s most recent collection — and it is stunning, as always.  Figurations of the Virgin Mary intertwine with moving landscapes, conversations between the poet and his wife, the transitory spaces of travel, a chance vision of the poet’s father; all hang in a delicate, almost sacred, lumen, suspended somewhere between heaven and earth.  Each poem breathes with an expansiveness and a grave tenderness that only Lee knows how to render. Behind My Eyes is sold with a CD of the poet reading some the poems in the book, and I highly recommend listening to this, as well.  I had the privilege of hearing Lee read from his drafts for this book a few years before it came out, and loved the way that the intonation of his voice seamed through the lines of each poem, threading them together in a low, sonorous hum.  It’s a beautiful listening experience, and adds a new and lovely textural dimension to his already melodious poetics.”

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Call Me Ishmael Tonight |
Agha Shahid Ali | W.W. Norton & Company (2003)

Recommended by Supriya: “This collection of ghazals shows the versatile ways in which a poetic form can go beyond its history and language while staying true to its essence. Agha Shahid Ali demonstrates the intentionality with which he overcomes expectations and boundaries by using a traditional form that often evokes feelings of longing and melancholia but writing in a contemporary English that feels timeless. Although written entirely in form, the range and depth of this collection allows for a vast expanse of emotions and possibilities and is the perfect collection with which to curl up whatever your mood.”

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A Gesture Life |
Chang-rae Lee | Penguin USA (2000)

Recommended by Ada: “Told from the point of view of Dr. Hata, a Japanese WWII veteran, this fictional memoir weaves between his experiences in a crumbling outpost of a Japanese imperial outpost in the last days of the war and his later life in gated, suburban America. The protagonist in Lee’s second novel is so reasonable it’s eerie, and though I think that we are meant to feel sorry for Dr. Hata and the stiffly respectable, appropriately understated life he has bound himself into, the distance that separates him from all the other characters in this book translates into distance from the reader. Not that the whole book left me cold: the scenes describing Dr. Hata’s encounters with Korean comfort women during the war are eye-opening, gripping, and an interesting perspective on the terrors of war.”

Continue reading “Staff Picks: Holiday Reading Recommendations”