Community Voices | Kundiman
Founded by Joseph Legaspi and Sarah Gambito in 2004, Kundiman, as it declares in its mission statement, is a non-profit organization "dedicated to the creation, cultivation and promotion of Asian American poetry." The organization, which takes its name from a form of Filipino love song that historically doubled as a covert means of protest against colonialist powers, lives out its mission by running a reading series that takes place in NYC throughout the year, an annual book contest, and its highly-anticipated yearly retreat, which occurs every June and gives emerging Asian American poets the opportunity to develop their craft in the company of their peers, and to be mentored by the distinguished poets who serve as faculty. Kundiman Fellows, who are chosen through a competitive screening process and have the opportunity to attend three retreats during their tenure, regularly speak of their relationship to Kundiman with great affection. Joseph Legaspi, in a November 2009 interview on the Lantern Review blog, explained that Kundiman functions as a safe space in which Asian American poets can receive support and affirmation: "having a community like this," he said, enables Fellows to "know that there are people like them, this is not some unicorn, not something mystical: this is something they can do and they can love poetry and it’s okay."
In this issue's Community Voices feature, we've chosen to showcase some of the work that has come out of the space Kundiman has created. "Sunken Garden Exit Ghazal" is a collaborative poem that was written by five Kundiman Fellows during the 2009 retreat. The three postcard poems that follow were written by individual Fellows as part of a National Poetry Month project in which the twenty participating Fellows wrote and exchanged poems on postcards for each day of April 2010. To find out more Kundiman and its programs, please visit their web site at www.kundiman.org.
Images on this page courtesy of Kundiman and Phayvanh Luekhamhan. Many thanks to Debbie Yee and Carolyn Micklem for their help in gathering the poems that follow.