Today, just in time for the start of the year of the lunar new year, we’re finishing off our two-part roundup of books that we’re looking forward to in 2014. Last week’s post (part 1) focused on recently published titles, while today’s (part 2) focuses on forthcoming books that are due out later this year.
Note: the books discussed below are divided by category according to whether they are currently available for pre-order, or whether specific details of their release have, as of this posting, yet to be announced. For each category, books are listed alphabetically by author.
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Available for Pre-order
Splitby Cathy Linh Che (forthcoming from Alice James Books in April 2014)
Split is the latest winner of the Kundiman Prize (the previous years’ awards having gone to Mezzanines by Matthew Olzmann and Pier by Janine Oshiro). Cathy Linh Che is a poet who writes with clarity and shattering vulnerability. I heard her read from portions of Split, which intertwines histories of personal trauma with the inherited trauma of war and displacement, at last year’s AWP, and watched the crowd be visibly moved as she began to cry on the podium. Che said recently, in a feature on the Blood-Jet Radio Hour’s blog: “at a reading, a young woman called me ‘the crying poet.’ She’d witnessed me bawling my eyes out at not one, but two of my own readings. I was a bit embarrassed by the nickname, but now it is a moniker I am proud of! If a book or reading is moving, I tear up. It is how I determine whether or not a work is good. Does it move me? And after I put down the work, does it endure?” I very much respect this: here is a poet who is willing to own the porousness between her work and herself, who is willing to allow herself to be moved by both the process and the “read” experience of her own writing. I can’t wait to read Split.
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Turn by Wendy Chin-Tanner (forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press in March 2014)
This is a special one for us here at LR. Wendy has been our staff interviewer for the past three seasons (she’s the one who’s been responsible for bringing you the insights of everyone from Garrett Hongo to Don Mee Choi), and we are so very ecstatic that she has a book forthcoming! We first got to know Wendy through her sonically rich, smart, politically-attuned poetry—we published a piece of hers in Issue 3 and enjoyed it so much that we made it the “closer” for the main body of the issue. Since joining the blog staff, she’s been a huge asset to the team, contributing colorful and extremely thoughtful interviews each month. We were thrilled when we learned that Sibling Rivalry had picked up her book, and are very much looking forward to reading it in a couple of months’ time.
Writers I know, writers I don’t, books that are new, books that are new to me, essay, poem, labyrinth, ventriloquist test, dead people, QR codes, famous screams, history lessons, fake choose your own adventures, pages and pages of bad-assery.
Any reading list that promises “pages and pages of bad-assery” sounds intriguing to us! Many thanks to Todd for sharing these titles.
Today’s prompt asks you to write an erasure poem. The exercise itself is straightforward and accessible: take a piece of text (any text), and erase, cut, or obscure words from it in order to excavate new constellations of sound, image, and meaning. But the simplicity of this method belies both the complex political implications of the act of erasure and the aesthetically and critically evocative possibilities of its results.
On the level of craft and aesthetic practice, erasure is an exercise in creative disruption: it approaches a text not as an authoritative tome, but as a playground. It pulls apart syntax and meaning, joyfully discarding the scaffolding of the author’s original intent, in order to generate new and often delightfully spontaneous meanings from the chaos that results. It gets our brains to think outside of existing constructions of language and argument, and playfully diffuses the authority of the published (public) page, instead placing agency and ownership of a text into the hands of the reader / artist who rearranges and re-imagines it.
On another level, though, the practice of erasure is also deeply subversive in a political sense. To author a text, to be among the ranks of those whose voices are heard in the public sphere (through public oratory, through publication), necessarily invests a speaker with a measure of social and cultural power, and so to engage in creating new texts by erasing portions of another one can be to participate in a type of protest against formal systems of language and power. The practice of erasing, or silencing, marginal voices is a tool that has long been wielded by those who seek to propagate and maintain systems of injustice, and so to uproot and disrupt, to excavate and re-write texts that come from unjust powers by erasing and reclaiming them is to turn that tool against itself.
Early this year, I began reading Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager, in which he uses the exercise of erasure to excavate and subvert the memoir of former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, who in 1985 was revealed to have been a Nazi SS officer. Reddy’s (to quote Marjorie Perloff’s blurb) “using, abusing, recycling, and reformatting [of] Waldheim’s own words” in multiple, complex configurations destabilizes the authority of Waldheim’s text by deftly using the framework of its language to construct transient arrangements that are by turns at odds with, and at times, utterly irrelevant to, the presumed argument of the original memoir. By doing this, Reddy enacts the shifting identities and masks that Waldheim claimed in his lifetime, laying bare the multiplicitous/duplicitous nature of the public persona he constructed for himself. From the remains of Waldheim’s shredded sentences, Reddy carefully excavates and floats before us a man whose seems utterly alienated from—even coolly oblivious to—the import of his ostensible mission. The narrative of peacemaking betrays itself, and, having splintered, the voice Reddy produces hovers in the space of the page, transmuted, antique, foreboding, and at times, almost faceless.
Reddy’s book is not the only erasure project that has caught my attention recently. When I read LR Issue 2 contributor W. Todd Kaneko’s poem “Quarry” a couple of months ago, I was also deeply intrigued by its use of the technique. First published to the blog 99 Poems for the 99 Percent back in January, “Quarry” engages in the unusual act of erasing portions of itself. Kaneko cleverly uses HTML to apply black backgrounds to sections of the text, in order to make them appear to have been “blocked out” or “censored”—that is, until the reader highlights the missing text with his or her mouse, and the missing words are revealed. “Quarry” thus exists as two simultaneous poems—the first, a public poem, notable for what it is missing, and the second, a “hidden” poem, which is accessible to the reader only if he or she possesses the curiosity to engage in some investigative work during the act of reading.
Indeed, asking the reader “dig” appears to have been at the heart of the Kaneko’s intentions for this piece. In the description that follows the poem, he writes:
I was thinking about how a writer often has to dig around in a poem
to figure out what it’s doing and what it wants to do. I was thinking
about how we kinda have to dig around in the OWS movement to figure
out what precisely is happening there. I was thinking about how so
much of this decade’s unemployment rates and economic woes are tied to
decisions and practices that people have been overlooking for decades.
I was thinking about using HTML to make a reader dig around in a
poem—use your mouse to select the text and unearth the rest of the
“Quarry,” then, in inviting the reader to reverse the poet’s act of self-erasure, brings us closer to the process of excavation inherent in creation and challenges the notion that to read uncritically and without careful investigation is to understand a whole picture (of a poem, of a political movement). To generate meaning, the artist, the politician, the protester, must engage in a process of thoughtful culling and “digging”—but to responsibly interpret that meaning, the reader must also engage in excavation, too. Neither art, nor politics, then, exists exclusively on the surface. It is only by digging through what has been hidden or erased that we can approach a fuller understanding of what we see before us (whether dinosaur, poem, or protest).
Prompt: Create a poem from the words of another text by erasing portions of the source until something new and evocative is generated. OR, create a poem that engages in doubling back on, negating, or even physically erasing, portions of itself.
Here are a few exciting tidbits of news from the LR community to round out our last day of posts before hiatus (which takes effect tonight, along with the submissions deadline for Issue 4! Don’t forget to send your work in—the system will be open until 11:59 pm EST).
Videopoem for Kenji C. Liu’s “A Son Writes Back”
LR contributor Kenji C. Liu sent us a link to this awesome video he created for his poem “A Son Writes Back” (the most recent version of which appeared in Issue 2). The video combines an audio performance of Kenji’s poem with musical accompaniment by Jason Jong. According to its caption on Vimeo, the visuals in the piece are footage from “a US Air Force propaganda film portraying aerial attacks on Imperial Japan during World War II.” Watch the embedded version below, or follow the links beneath it to watch on Vimeo.
Not only does Issue 3 contributor W. Todd Kaneko’s work appear in the 10th issue of the Los Angeles Review, but the magazine recently featured his poem “Remembering Minidoka” online as one of the issue’s “highlights”! To read the piece, click here. Many congrats to Todd on this honor.
Bao Phi’s Sông I Sing Reviewed in the New York Times
Issue 3 contributor Melissa R. Sipin was inspired enough by Wendy’s interview with Kimiko Hahn (and by the APR interview that Wendy references) that she wrote a poem in response! She’s shared it on her blog. Thanks, Melissa, for your thoughtful engagement with Kimiko’s words!
The Lantern Review editorial board is pleased to announce that we have selected two poems to nominate for Sundress Publications’ 2011 Best of the Net Anthology. They are, in order of appearance in our magazine:
W. Todd Kaneko is not cool enough to be a rock star, not tall enough to be a professional wrestler, and not virtuous enough to be a super-hero.* His stories and poems can be seen in Puerto Del Sol, Crab Creek Review, Fairy Tale Review, Portland Review, Southeast Review, Blackbird, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop. He teaches in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with the writer Caitlin Horrocks.
*Editorial Disclaimer: Todd’s appraisal of himself; not ours. We think he’s a lot cooler than he admits.
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Michelle Peñaloza grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nashville Review, Lantern Review, Birmingham Poetry Review and Bellingham Review, among others. She received the 2011 Women Writers’ Literary Fellowship, awarded by Oregon Literary Arts, and currently serves as director of the Kidd Tutorials at the University of Oregon.
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Congratulations to Todd and Michelle. We are honored to be represented by such fine work, and wish each of you the best of luck in the judging process!
Welcome to our Summer Reads 2011 blog series! Throughout the months of July and August, we will be featuring recommended reading lists submitted by Lantern Review contributors who want to share books they plan to read this summer and titles they want to suggest to the wider LR community. This week features a two sets of reads from LR Issue 2 contributors W. Todd Kaneko and JoAnn Balingit.
This is the first summer in a while that I will not be attempting to finish Infinite Jest. I always try but then give up (at about page 200) when the huge time commitment gets in the way of my work. So instead, I just finished How They Were Found by Matt Bell and have started Once the Shore by Paul Yoon. On deck after that are Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Queen of the Ring by Jeff Leen, and Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting. Also, my partner Caitlin Horrocks has a brand new book out, This is Is Not Your City—I’ve read the stories, but it’s exciting to re-experience them in the book.
My poetry reading list is too long and cluttered to convey in full, but I recently read and was transfixed by Ignatz by Monica Youn and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting by Anna Journey. At the moment, I’m kind of mesmerized with Ardor by Karen An-hwei Lee. Up next are What the Right Hand Knows by Tom Healy, A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood by Allen Braden, Archicembalo by G.C. Waldrep, The Haunted House by Marisa Crawford, Delivered by Sarah Gambito, Spit by Esther Lee, and Before I Came Home Naked by Christina Olson.
I am also planning to play Fallout: New Vegas wherever I can fit it in.
Here’s an excerpt that showcases the poem’s masterful imagery—which is razor-sharp, tender, and resonant, yet just a touch fleeting and strange:
“Extinction begins as absence, ends gaping
like a surgery, a hole in my chest
marking that mythology we call home.
Mount Rainier does not drift phantomlike
in this poem, but here is that old woman,
crooked under the weight of a century.
She waves off that flock of dark birds
thronging overhead, threatening to pluck
eyes from sockets, tongues from mouths,
until all we can discern is the tide washing
over bare feet, the sound of wings.”
We love this poem (clearly) and are elated to see that others are enjoying it as much as we do. The “As It Ought to Be” editor writes of this poem, “Here’s to W. Todd Kaneko’s muse . . . She is a creature to be awed and honored.” We heartily agree.
It’s been a little over a month now since AWP 2011 in Washington DC — and this post is more than a little overdue! Nonetheless, here it is: our reflection on the very first gathering of Lantern Review contributors, readers, and editors. Our off-site reading, co-hosted by Boxcar Poetry Review “in celebration of the little online magazine,” took place on Friday, February 4th at Go Mama Go!, a lovely, eclectic art supply & gift shop (ceramics, antique soda bottles, shot glasses, bright paper umbrellas) whose owner greeted us with a warm, “Are you here for the Chinese poetry?” when we first walked into the door. “Well… yes?” we said, though really we were there for so much more.
Realizing that a gathering of people interested in Asian American poetry could perhaps be mistaken for enthusiasts of Chinese verse, we decided that this was an appropriate place for our reading to begin: with an assumption that would, as the night progressed, be stretched and proliferated across a variety of subjects, styles, personalities, and identities. We heard from lovers, from daughters and sons, from fighters and artists, ethnic selves, queer selves, and — at times — just plain selves confronted with the complex reality of living in the twenty-first century.
We had the pleasure of hearing seven different Lantern Review contributors, all of whom read poems published in either Issue 1 or Issue 2 alongside other pieces prepared for the event. Though most of us had never met before, there was a wonderful camaraderie in the room — after tipping the microphone down a few inches, Issue 2 contributor Kathleen Hellen joked that, being a little-ish person, she loved little-ish poems and planned to share a few with us.
Contributor Rajiv Mohabir impressed us with his unexplained passion for whales, even pulling off his fleece to show the back of his t-shirt. Sure enough: whale.
To be perfectly honest, in preparing for this event I had no idea what — or who, rather — to expect. Sure, we had a list of readers and printed programs, but in curating the poems for our two issues, I’d developed certain notions of “who” our contributors were: Poet X, author of Poem Y, was surely this kind of person, or at least that’s what I thought after spending so much time with their persona on the page. But would I be proved mistaken when I met them in real life?
Seeing the men and women “behind the issues,” however, playing the wonderful game of matching poet face to poetic voice, was a fabulous experience. At this event, a community that had previously existed only as a textual (and virtual!) reality became, for the first time, embodied in flesh: jeans and scarves, breath and lungs and vocal chords. Hearing these contributors’ voices for the first time, particularly when each poet read their LR piece, was phenomenal. Personas that previously existed only as textual markings on a computer screen became live presences, embodied on stage before our very eyes.
This could be an overreaction — the online magazine, and indeed the publishing world itself, has been around a long time, and “meeting your editor/contributors for the first time” is terribly old news. For us, however, newly minted and only in our second year, the event was a wonderful success. A true celebration of the little online magazine. We’re grateful to our contributors, particularly those who were there with us at Go Mama Go! on the 4th, and to all the other readers and writers who make this virtual and literary community a living network of flesh-and-bone people around the nation. Thank you for your support, and for joining us in exploring the open-ended question of Asian American poetry.
Also, thanks to Iris’ foresight and inner documentary filmmaker, you can hear clips of their readings below: