To this end, we’ve included poems like Michelle Penazola’s “Vestige” which, while not overtly concerned with issues of ‘race’ or ‘Asian American immigration,’ uses dense, ambient textures to evoke questions of faith, ritual, and doubt in the face of the mundane. We see this poem, and others like it, as hinging on the self-conscious gesture, or attempt, to inhabit a culturally marked space. How do we inhabit this space? it asks, and before inhabiting this space, how do we first construct it?
Furthermore, in order to reflect our belief that what matters in contemporary Asian American poetry is both the content of and the form in which such questions are staged, we have sought to showcase a variety of subjects and aesthetics within the content of Issue 2. Take, for instance, the aesthetic imperatives (bound inextricably in the political and social) that drive the spare, visually-perforated poetics of Aryanil Mukherjee’s “honeycomb scriptures :: world granulated” and Lek Borja’s “The Senses Center,” when examined against the long strands of collage-like juxtapositions and interlingual shifts in Aimee Suzara’s “My Mother’s Watch” and Rajiv Mohabir’s “for what loses shape.” Consider also the more traditional lyric sensibilities of JoAnn Balingit’s “The Great Tree” and Kenji C. Liu’s “A Son Writes Back,” two beautifully imaged poems that function as interrogations of the structure of generational memory—of families bound up in histories of gain and loss.
We’ve begun and ended Issue 2 with a set of paradoxical gestures, both of which motion toward the thwarting and reframing of regionally- or culturally-based expectations. First, the contestable “Northwest-ness” of Todd Kaneko’s “Northwest Poem,” in which herons and salmon do not appear; and secondly, the delightful oddness of Marc Vincenz’s Chairman Mao in “Taishan Mountain,” whose first move after proclaiming “the East is Red” is to “plan[t] a huge, wet kiss on my lips,” utterly undercutting Western imaginaries about the political and ideological landscapes of the region in question—not to mention fantasies about ‘Oriental’ China. At a fundamental level, these two poems point to the artificiality of geographical and national identities, the art of dodge and deflection we all play in staging ’ethnic‘ questions about identity and culture.
Many thanks for your continued support of our publication. We hope you enjoy Issue 2, and wish you all the best in 2011—much joy, peace, and Light to you!
Mia Ayumi Malhotra & Iris A. Law