An Asian American Poetry Companion: Must-Read Titles for Summer 2021

An Asian American Poetry Companion: May 2021. Clockwise from top left, cover images of: DIVINE FIRE by David Woo, A THOUSAND TIMES YOU LOSE YOUR TREASURE by Hoa Nguyen, DRAKKAR NOIR by MICHAEL CHANG, APPROPRIATE by Paisley Rekdal, THE GLASS CONSTELLATION by Arthur Sze, IMAGINE US, THE SWARM by Muriel Leung, SPARROWS AND DUST by Zilka Joseph, ELEVEN MILES TO JUNE by Ha Kiet Chau, IRON GODDESS OF MERCY by Larissa Lai, ANGEL AND HANNAH by Ishle Yi Park.
New and Notable Asian American Poetry Books for Early Summer 2021

Yet another Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is drawing to a close, but even in the face of the hatred that our Asian American community has faced this year, there is still so much to celebrate. This month’s Asian American poetry companion is jam-packed with recent releases to savor. We hope you’ll consider picking up a few (or all) of them to carry with you into the summer and beyond. After all, as we often remark, Asian American literary excellence doesn’t end with May!

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FEATURED PICKS:

MICHAEL CHANG, Drakkar Noir (Bateau, May 2021)

If you enjoyed MICHAEL CHANG’s lusciously textured epistolary poem in Issue 8.2, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of Drakkar Noir, their prizewinning debut chapbook, out from Bateau this spring. Dorothy Chan writes, in praise of the book, that “CHANG gives us romp and runway fused with popular culture that leads into allegories of what it’s like to be queer and Asian American in America—in the world today—around people who want to slow you down. Drakkar Noir is a love letter to all queer Asian Americans that calls out performative allyship.” If you’re looking for an intimate read that speaks presciently to the present moment, you won’t want to miss this one!

Paisley Rekdal, Appropriate: A Provocation (Norton, February 2021)

Though Appropriate has been out since February, we wanted to save it for our May roundup because it seemed fitting to it feature during APA Heritage Month. In this thoughtful craft book, framed as a series of letters to a student, Rekdal tackles the thorny subject of appropriation with delicacy, investigating difficult questions of power and authenticity that come into play when writing about the experiences of others—and probing, ultimately, the limits of empathy. Rekdal writes with care and pragmatism; her nuanced approach to this tricky topic makes this, in our opinion, an essential read—not just for students and teachers but for anyone who writes.

Muriel Leung, Imagine Us, the Swarm (Nightboat, May 2021)

Muriel Leung’s second collection, which won the Nightboat Books Poetry Prize, is hot off the presses this month. A collection of essays in verse, Imagine Us, the Swarm considers the loss of the poet’s father. In so doing, Monica Youn writes, it “renders visible the liminal space of the Asian American, an occupied territory in which every silence, every potentiality, hums with the white noise of other people’s imaginings.” Given the context of our community’s continued struggle for justice, and in light of our theme this season (Asian American futures), this collection is one we can’t wait to read.

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MORE NEW AND NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Ha Kiet Chau, Eleven Miles to June (Green Writers, April 2021)

Zilka Joseph, Sparrows and Dust (Ridgeway, April 2021)

Larissa Lai, Iron Goddess of Mercy (Arsenal Pulp, April 2021)

Hoa Nguyen, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure (Wave, April 2021)

Ishle Yi Park, Angel and Hannah (One World, May 2021)

Arthur Sze, The Glass Constellation (Copper Canyon, April 2021)

David Woo, Divine Fire (U of Georgia, March 2021)

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What titles by Asian American poets are on your reading list this summer? We’d love to hear from you! Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


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Cover image of MIGRATORY SOUND by Sara Lupita Olivares

Migratory Sound by Sara Lupita Olivares
(U of Arizona Press, 2020)

Please consider supporting a small press or independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

An Asian American Poetry Companion: Fresh Collections for National Poetry Month 2021

Alt Copy: An Asian American Poetry Companion: April 2021. Clockwise from top left are cover images of: LAST DAYS by Tamiko Beyer, CONTINUITY by Cynthia Arrieu-King, CLEAVE by Tiana Nobile, PEACH STATE by Adrienne Su, IF GOD IS A VIRUS by Seema Yasmin, PROMETEO by C. Dale Young, THE SUNFLOWER CAST A SPELL TO SAVE US FROM THE VOID by Jackie Wang, and WHAT HAPPENS IS NEITHER by Angela Narciso Torres.
New and Notable Asian American Poetry Books for April 2021

It’s a heavy time to be celebrating National Poetry Month. In the face of continued violence, our Asian American community aches. And yet, as our guest editor this season, Eugenia Leigh, shared on Twitter with regard to our theme for the season, “The racist hate crimes against Asian Americans don’t get to silence us. We get to define what #AsianAmericanFutures looks like.” If the wealth of new poetry titles by Asian American writers hitting the shelves this year is any indication, then the future of Asian America looks bright. Poetry as resistance, as resilience, as vision, as voice, as witness, as document, as radical care, as light—that alone is something to celebrate.

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FEATURED PICKS:

Cynthia Arrieu-King, Continuity (Octopus, April 2021)

Cynthia Arrieu-King has not one, but two new books out this spring. In addition to her lyric essay, The Betweens (Noemi, March 2021), her latest collection, Continuity, hits shelves this month. Arrieu-King has observed that she envisions Continuity as the second half of a “double album.” While her previous collection, Futureless Languages, looks ahead, Continuity dips into the past, excavating histories of war and inherited trauma. Laura Jaramillo describes the poems in the collection as “sonically soft and visually holographic, sensorially pleasurable and richly melancholy.” If you’ve enjoyed Arrieu-King’s previous books as much as I have, then Continuity is sure to be a title you won’t want to miss.

Tamiko Beyer, Last Days (Alice James, April 2021)

Our theme for the season is “Asian American Futures,” a notion that issue 1 contributor Tamiko Beyer’s newest collection, Last Days, embodies wonderfully. Featuring a group of charismatic young revolutionaries and their struggle to navigate a post-apocalyptic world, Last Days celebrates hope, resilient joy, and the beauty of human interconnectedness. Beyer writes with the deep tenderness, empathy, and breathtaking lyric clarity that is a hallmark of her work. I had the chance to preview the collection earlier this year, and it’s been one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far.

Tiana Nobile, Cleave (Hub City, April 2021)

The title of Tiana Nobile’s first collection, Cleave, is a contranym—a choice that, per the Southern Review of Books’s interview with the author, nods to the complexity of her experience as a transnational adoptee. Accordingly, Cleave mixes research with personal history to interrogate the legacy of transnational adoption. The result, writes Cathy Park Hong, is a “mythic origin story that is beautiful, melancholic and powerful.” I’ve enjoyed reading individual pieces from Nobile’s project in the past and admire the way she’s combined meticulous craft with an unflinching sense of vision. Now that Cleave is finally out in the world, I can’t wait to dig into the collection in its entirety!

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MORE NEW AND NOTEWORTHY TITLES:

Adrienne Su, Peach State (U of Pittsburgh, March 2021)

Angela Narciso Torres, What Happens Is Neither (Four Way, February 2021)

Jackie Wang, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void (Nightboat, January 2021)

Seema Yasmin, If God Is a Virus (Haymarket, April 2021)

C. Dale Young, Prometeo (Four Way, February 2021)

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We hope you’ll consider giving one of these books a read this month. As always, if you are able, we encourage you to support small presses and local independent bookstores (especially BIPOC-owned bookstores) with your purchases. And we’d love to hear from you! What Asian American poetry books are on your radar this April? Share your recommendations with us in the comments or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview).


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Cover image of Sonia Sanchez's COLLECTIVE POEMS

Sonia Sanchez, Collected Poems (Beacon, 2021)

Please consider supporting an independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Six Questions for Senior Staff Reader Indrani Sengupta

Close portrait of Indrani Sengupta wearing a black, gray, and white top and standing in front of closed white window blinds. The purple tips of her long black hair fall past her shoulders. She is looking directly at the camera with a serious expression.
LR Senior Staff Reader Indrani Sengupta

It’s the last week of our 2021 youth folio reading period! Earlier this year, we introduced our 2021 guest editor, Eugenia, and in late 2020, we helped you get to know Karen, our fall intern (and current staff reader). Today, while you’re preparing those last-minute submissions, we thought we’d take the time to highlight another member of our editorial team: our senior staff reader, Indrani Sengupta. Indrani is a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet from Kolkata, India, who is, in her words, “currently braving Illinois weather.” She received her MFA in poetry from Boise State University, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Indiana Review, Copper Nickel, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review, and Grimoire. As a key member of the LR editorial team for the past two years, Indrani brings a keen eye for craft and an empathetic approach to our submissions process, evaluating each poem she reads with fairness and care. If a manuscript crosses Indrani’s desk, rest assured that it’s in good hands! Read on to learn more about Indrani’s obsession with writing the body through fairy tales, garden spaces, and more in her own poetry; her thoughts on the importance of having the courage to play with abandon in one’s work; and her radical, canon-exploding dreams for the future of Asian American poetry. We know you’ll love her as much as we do by the time you’re through!

LANTERN REVIEW: How did you come to poetry?

INDRANI SENGUPTA: In grade school, we were given an assignment to write short free verse poems about natural artifacts: sun, sea, moon, earth, the like. I remember putting the full freight of my nine-year-old vocabulary into making them as pretty and wastefully lavish as possible. My teacher was pleased. My mother read them aloud over and over. I couldn’t stand it. I think I realized even then that there was something dishonest in what I’d written, so full of self-conscious beauty and so devoid of rage (which I had plenty of). I flirted with poetry for several years, writing well-behaved poems. I don’t think it was until I started reading poets like me — contemporary, female, brown — that I realized what poetry could actually be. Thorny, volatile, stunningly unfinished, devastating to writer and reader alike.

LR: What interests or obsessions are driving your work right now?

IS: Bodies, as they pertain to reproductive trauma and sexual assault, as they function in medical spaces, domestic spaces, garden spaces, hortus conclususes, witchcraft, the mythological canon, and the fairy tale canon. That’s . . . a lot of somewhat disparate topics, but I think the anchor point is always the body. Not even mine, necessarily. I’ve been enjoying getting into the sleeves of archetypal personas and anatomizing them from inside out.

LR: What’s one writing ritual or self-care practice that helps sustain you?

IS: The only thing that works for me is a sustained, penciled-in writing routine. It’s not as sexy as spontaneous inspiration, but I like to think there’s something good and worshipful about sitting with yourself for three hours and throwing nothing at a nothing-wall until something appears. For company, I keep a running doc of breathtaking poems from different journals and books that have nothing to do with each other, a running list of exciting words and orphaned lines that I want to use someday, and string lights that only come on when I’m writing (an attempt at conjuration).

Another completely unrelated practice: Dungeons & Dragons! It’s kind of like an act of communal, extemporaneous writing where you cannot fail—only die a little.

LR: What are some of your favorite poetry collections of the moment?

IS: These are not all of the moment, but I’m very much stuck on them: Bhanu Kapil’s Humanimal, Franny Choi’s Soft Science, Srikanth Reddy’s Underworld Lit, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife, Kerri Webster’s We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone, Alicia Mountain’s Thin Fire.

LR: Looking back, what’s something you wish you could tell your younger self?

IS: Back in school, I once got feedback to play more with my work. I could not for the life of me figure out how. I thought I was already pushing the limits of what I was capable of. It took many years of hindsight to understand, and maybe I’m still in the process of understanding. If I could go back, I’d translate like so: throw out the loved image; interrupt the music; write the poem that doesn’t wrap neatly, that guts itself as it goes. Reapproach the work without a plan or a conscience. The good thing is, nowadays I have no real plan for anything. It’s terrifying! And I think that terror’s so very useful.

LR: What does “Asian American futures” mean to you?

IS: I attended grade school in India, but my first exposure to poetry was through the British canon. And I’m grateful to it, but I often think of who I’d be today if I’d encountered contemporary Asian American poetry sooner, or first. My hope for the future that kids like me (and unlike me) have that chance. Rework, expand, explode the canon.

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Many thanks to Indrani for sitting down with us to chat! For more from her, check out some of her poems here and here. And if you’re an Asian American poet or artist aged 14–24 and you haven’t yet already checked out our youth folio call for submissions, head on over to our Submittable page—there’s just under a week left to send us your work!


Cover image of WITCH WIFE by Kiki Petrosino (Sarabande, 2017)

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Kiki Petrosino, Witch Wife (Sarabande, 2017)

Please consider supporting an BIPOC-owned indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Publishing 101: How to Submit Your Work (to LR or Any Literary Journal)

Publishing 101: How to Submit Your Work (to LR or Any Literary Journal). LR, lanternreview.submittable.com, Asian American Futures. Background image: black-and white photo of a wooden dock pointing out over open water. On the horizon are hills shrouded in misty fog. (Photo by Simone Mattielli on Unsplash)
Submissions are open for our youth folio! If you’re new to the world of literary publishing, read through this post for some tips before you head on over to send us your work.

It’s the first day of our youth folio submissions period, and we’re so excited to see your poems and art! Because we know that this might be the first time some of you are submitting to a literary journal, we thought we’d take some time today to discuss our best tips for navigating the submissions process. The advice below is geared toward sending your work to Lantern Review, but much of it will also apply to other literary journals. (Just remember that every publication is different, so be sure to read the specific guidelines for wherever you send your work!) Whether you’re new to sending out your stuff for publication—or you just want a quick refresher—these four key steps are an easy recipe to help you get started.

Step 1: Get to know the journal.

Before you begin, it’s a good idea to research any journal you’re submitting to. Take some time to read through past issues if they’re available, and look at whom they’ve published in the past to get a feel for the kind of work they like. (At Lantern Review, you can read our current issue here and browse our archive of older issues here.) As you read, ask yourself: What themes does this magazine tend to be interested in? Is there a style of work that they seem to publish a lot? Have they published any work in the past that seems similar to mine? Are there any pieces they’ve published that I really admire?

The idea is to get a sense of whether your work would fit well with what the journal usually publishes—as well as which of your pieces the editors might be most interested in. (For example, if the journal hasn’t published any poems that rhyme in the past, and you have some poems that rhyme and some that don’t—then you’ll know that you should send only unrhymed pieces.)

So what kind of work do we like to publish at Lantern Review? We talk about this and other related topics in our Submissions FAQ (which we highly encourage you to read!). But here’s what we have to say about our magazine’s particular stylistic preferences:

We love poems that surprise and challenge us, that are musical and filled with vivid, concrete imagery; that play with language in new and interesting ways; that take risks; that have something distinct to say. We tend to prefer unrhymed, free verse poems. We no longer publish translations. To get the best idea of what we publish, we encourage you to read through a few of our past issues.

[. . .]

For visual art, we’re looking for paintings in traditional mediums (like watercolor, oil, acrylic); lino or woodblock prints; collage; and abstract photos that we can juxtapose with poems and maybe even use as cover art. We’re fond of moody, monochrome color palettes, striking contrast, and interestingly textured play with shadow and light. As stated above, the best way to get an idea of the type of art we publish is to look at our past issues.

Other journals will have different preferences than ours, but regardless of where you’re submitting, it’s a good rule of thumb to take a poke around a magazine’s website or blog for any information about what they’re interested in publishing (tip: you’ll often find it tucked away on the “about” or “submissions” pages)—and then use that to help you decide what to submit.

Step 2: Read the guidelines. (Yes, really!)

It might sound like a no-brainer, but we can’t tell you how many submissions we receive that we unfortunately can’t review because the submitter did not read the guidelines—from sending us work in genres that we don’t publish to attaching book-length manuscripts that are far too long for us to consider. No matter where you’re sending your work, it’s important that you follow the guidelines carefully! Editors and staff readers see a lot of submissions at once, so if an entry does not meet the guidelines, they might not be able to give it their full attention. Abiding by the rules gives your submission the fairest chance possible.

At Lantern Review, we have a set of general guidelines that apply to all submissions, as well as specific instructions that apply to work for each category (poetry or art). And as is the case for many magazines, you’ll need to know a couple of publishing-industry terms. Here’s a quick breakdown of what they mean.

Rights revert to the author upon publication of the work. Most US-based literary journals claim what are known as first North American serial rights. This means that the magazine reserves the right to be the first North American periodical to publish a piece. However, journals usually do not hold onto the rights to a piece after it’s published. When a magazine states that “rights revert to the author upon publication of the work,” it means that after the issue containing your piece comes out, you (the author) own the rights again. When a journal says this, it generally means two things. First, you shouldn’t submit any work to them that has previously been published. Second, you don’t need to ask the magazine’s permission to republish the piece after the issue comes out (though most journals appreciate a short acknowledgment in the republished version—something like “This poem was first published in Lantern Review“).

Simultaneous submissions. A simultaneous submission is a piece that more than one journal is considering at the same time. As long as the guidelines say so, most magazines (like us!) are fine with this; they’ll just ask you to tell them which pieces are simultaneous submissions—and to inform them if another magazine accepts a piece before they do. There’s also an unstated etiquette rule here: it’s really bad form not to tell a magazine when a piece is no longer available because another journal’s accepted it first. So be sure to write or message the editors right away if you’re lucky enough for this to happen! (Don’t worry; no one will be offended—in fact, they’ll probably congratulate you on your news.) And rest assured: even if you withdraw a piece from consideration because it’s been accepted elsewhere, most journals (like us!) will still read and consider the rest of your poems.

Once you’ve read through the guidelines, you might find that you still have some questions. If that’s the case, you should first refer to any FAQs (here are ours) that a journal may have available on their website. If you can’t find the answer there, then go ahead and email the editors—if they’re anything like us, most will be delighted to answer your questions!

Step 3: Prepare a cover letter and bio.

In the literary publishing world, it’s normal to send a cover letter with each submission. Fortunately, this isn’t the high-pressure sort of cover letter that you send with job applications! In a literary cover letter, you usually just need to introduce yourself and your work and let the editors know of any important special information (like if some of the pieces are simultaneous submissions). If you’d like a great basic template to help you draft your letter, we suggest looking at this one from Adroit.

When you’re writing your cover letter, try to use slightly more formal language, and make sure that you’re addressing the editors accurately in your greeting. Many people begin their cover letters with just a simple “Dear editors,” but you can also look up and include the editors’ first names in your greeting if you like. If you do this, be sure to double check your spelling, and avoid adding titles like “Mr.,” “Ms.,” or “Dr.” unless you know the editors and their preferred titles personally. (For Lantern Review, if you want to address our 2021 team of editors and readers by name, you can write, “Dear Eugenia, Iris, Indrani, and Karen.”)

Many journals will also ask you to include a short bio with your submission. Lantern Review asks you to put this information in your cover letter, but other magazines might ask you to include it in a separate field in the submission form. Literary bios are usually short and are written in the third person (i.e., not “I” or “me”). Most include some information about the poet or artist’s identity and/or location, any notable past publications and awards, and even (sometimes) a couple of fun facts—like about pets or hobbies. Here’s a great example of a bio from a student we published in Issue 4:

Susan Li is 18 years old. She was born and raised and still lives in Brooklyn, where she graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School. She is currently attending Hunter College and pursuing a degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy, with a minor in Asian American Studies.

Step 4: Put together your best work and send it in!

Take a look at your work and choose a few pieces you’re proud of and think the magazine editors might like, too. How many you send is up to you—but definitely don’t send any more than the maximum number allowed (for Lantern Review, that’s four). We also think it’s a good strategy to send more than just one! Not only does sending more than one piece help editors to get a better sense of your work; it also gives them more options to choose from. For example, if the Lantern Review team gets a submission with three pieces in it, we might like the second or third piece even if we don’t want to publish the first. If you only send one poem, you’re only giving yourself one chance to get our attention.

If you’re a poet (the following doesn’t apply to visual art submissions), combine the pieces you’ve chosen into a single document (editors call this a manuscript or an MS or MSS), in whatever format the guidelines suggest. While you’re compiling your manuscript, it’s also a good idea to think about the order you want editors to read each poem in. If you can’t decide, at least try to put the strongest poem first!

Give your cover letter and manuscript one last, final proofread—then head on over to the submission form, and hit “send.” Congratulations; you’ve just submitted your work!

Extra Credit: Say “thank you” when you get your reply.

After you submit to a journal, you can generally expect to wait anywhere from several weeks to a few months before you get a reply. Most journals will give you an estimate of their response time (ours is eight weeks after the close of the submission period). If you don’t hear back within that time, it’s okay to send a polite message asking for a status update! But once you do get an official acceptance or rejection, it’s really nice if you can send a short reply. For acceptances, you’ll usually need to reply in order to give the journal written permission to publish your work. For rejections, replying is totally optional, but if you get a personalized rejection (which is when an editor writes back encouragement or feedback or asks you to consider submitting again), that’s considered a compliment—so it’s generally a good idea to write back with a quick note of thanks!

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We know it takes guts to put your work out there—but we hope that this breakdown has helped make at least the submissions process at Lantern Review feel a little less intimidating and mysterious. We encourage you to check out our Submissions FAQ and to email us at editors [at] lanternreview [dot] com if you have any questions. We’re here for you! And we’re ready and waiting to read your work.

Click here to Submit to our 2021 Youth Folio: Asian American Futures (Powered by Submittable)

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Cover image of THE AGE OF PHILLIS by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan, 2020)

Please consider supporting an indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Six Questions for 2021 Guest Editor Eugenia Leigh

Photograph of Eugenia Leigh, poet with long, dark hair and thick-rimmed glasses. She is wearing a white, puffy jacket with a bright red vest layered on top and is standing in front of a moody seascape with rocky crags and crashing waves visible in the far distance.
2021 Guest Editor Eugenia Leigh

This season, we’re privileged to welcome Eugenia Leigh to our team as guest editor. Eugenia is the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books, 2014) and the recipient of fellowships and awards from Poets & Writers magazine, Kundiman, Rattle, and elsewhere. She’s previously served as poetry editor at Kartika Review and Hyphen magazine, and she’s also a past contributor to the magazine and the blog here at Lantern Review. As Eugenia will be working closely with us to curate and produce the magazine this season, we thought we’d take a minute to help you get to know her. Read on to learn about some of her favorite reads of 2020, the Word document she keeps on her desktop for inspiration, what “Asian American futures” means to her, and more.

LANTERN REVIEW: How did you come to poetry?

EUGENIA LEIGH: Like many children from dysfunctional, abusive homes, I was taught to lie about my life as a child. Given that my parents were also pursuing ministry work in Korean Christian churches, the lying was even more imperative to maintain the illusion of our nice family. This made for a pretty lonely childhood. In junior high, an English teacher gave us the assignment to adopt a poet of our choosing, create a report, and recite one of their poems from memory for the class. I chose Anne Sexton randomly with no knowledge of who she was, and I recited a posthumously published poem, “Red Roses”—a poem about child abuse, thinly veiled. I still remember reciting this poem to the class and feeling the electricity of being able to tell at least one small truth in this artful way. After discovering Anne Sexton and the confessional poets, I often turned toward poetry to process and work through a lot of my ongoing childhood trauma during my teenage years. I’ve grown comfortable admitting that before poetry became an “artistic pursuit,” poetry was first an important coping mechanism and survival tool for me.

LR: What’s something you wish you had known when you were just starting out as a writer?

EL: When I was a senior at UCLA, a dear older white male poet announced to our poetry workshop—after critiquing one of my poems—that “if you’re forty and you’re a poet, then you’re a poet. But if you’re twenty and you’re a poet, you’re just twenty.” I’m nearly forty now, and I can still recall the humiliation of that statement, which stayed with me longer than it should have. When I was starting out as a writer, I wish I’d known to block out the many toxic voices I allowed into my ever-anxious, ever-insecure mind. I wish I’d believed in myself and in my writing, and I wish I’d applied for every chance to learn, grow, and showcase my work. I wish I’d had Michelle Obama’s voice to quiet my imposter syndrome by saying, “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the UN; they are not that smart.”

LR: What interests or obsessions are driving your work right now? 

EL: A few years ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and complex PTSD, and this has fueled a new interest in the ways mental illness intersects with intergenerational trauma, especially within Asian American (and more specifically, Korean American) families. As a new parent, I’m also interested in narratives that upend the curated, Instagrammable stories of parenthood and have been a little hellbent on putting the uglier bits of this life into my newer poems.

LR: What are some of your favorite poetry collections of the moment?

EL: A few favorite poetry collections from 2020 that I can’t stop thinking about or recommending to people: John Murillo’s Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, Leila Chatti’s Deluge, Yona Harvey’s You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, and Choi Seungja’s Phone Bells Keep Ringing for Me (translated by Won-Chung Kim and Cathy Park Hong). I’m also pretty obsessed with these 2020 nonfiction books by Korean American poets: Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings and E. J. Koh’s The Magical Language of Others—both of which made me cry multiple times. I feel actual gratitude that all these books are out in the world.

LR: What’s one writing ritual or self-care practice that helps sustain you?

EL: I keep a Word document on my desktop called “Anthology of Quotes”—an ongoing collection of inspirational quotes to keep me going when I want to quit. I read through it when I feel unable to continue writing. A lot of Audre Lorde in there, some philosophers, even some from contemporary actors or anonymous quotes floating around Instagram. And one Bible verse (though I’ve completely forgotten its context now): “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands’” (from the book of Nehemiah, chapter 6, verse 9).

LR: In keeping with this season’s theme, what does “Asian American futures” mean to you? 

EL: When I think of “Asian American futures,” I imagine new generations of Asian American poets putting to paper what our parents, grandparents, and ancestors could never bring themselves to say. I envision poetry that refuses to wait around for permission. Poetry with an urgency that matches the times. Poetry that cost the poet something to write.

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We hope you’ll join us in welcoming Eugenia to our editorial team for the season! For more from her, check out her website—or head on over to read our previous interview with her, right here on the LR blog. (And don’t forget to send us your own takes on “Asian American futures”! Our regular open submissions period closes on February 11th.)

* * *

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 Yona Harvey, You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love (Four Way Books, 2020)

Please consider supporting an indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Submissions FAQ: What to Know When Sending Us Your Work

Submissions FAQs: What to Know When Sending Us Your Work (LR: lanternreview.submittable.com, Asian American Futures). Background image: black-and white photo of a wooden dock pointing out over open water. On the horizon are hills shrouded in misty fog. (Photo by Simone Mattielli on Unsplash)
All your pressing questions answered: read on below before you submit!

Our first submissions period of the season is officially open as of this morning! Over the years, we’ve been asked a lot of really great questions about our submissions process, so today on the blog, we thought we’d take some time to answer a few of the most frequently asked. First time sending us work? Or new to lit mag submissions in general? Before you head on over to check out our official guidelines on Submittable, we encourage you to take a quick read through the following.

1. What types of poems do you publish?

We love poems that surprise and challenge us, that are musical and filled with vivid, concrete imagery; that play with language in new and interesting ways; that take risks; that have something distinct to say. We tend to prefer unrhymed, free verse poems. We no longer publish translations. To get the best idea of what we publish, we encourage you to read through a few of our past issues.

2. What kind of art are you looking for?

For visual art, we’re looking for paintings in traditional mediums (like watercolor, oil, acrylic); lino or woodblock prints; collage; and abstract photos that we can juxtapose with poems and maybe even use as cover art. We’re fond of moody, monochrome color palettes, striking contrast, and interestingly textured play with shadow and light. As stated above, the best way to get an idea of the type of art we publish is to look at our past issues.

3. How many times can I submit? Can I submit to both the poetry and visual art categories? Can I send you work during both reading periods this year?

You’re welcome to submit to both categories in a given reading period! However, please submit only once per category during that period. Additionally, this year, our second reading period (Mar/Apr) is reserved for Asian American writers and artists aged 14–24 only, while our current reading period (Jan/Feb) is for Asian American poets and artists of any age. We ask that you please respect these categories and only submit during the appropriate reading period.

4. If I’ve been published by LR before, can I submit again?

We ask contributors to wait one calendar year/season after publication before submitting again. (This means that anyone we published in 2020 should not submit this year.) Otherwise, past contribs are welcome to submit again!

5. Do I have to be Asian American for you to publish my work?

Our mission is to highlight Asian American poetry and art. At the present moment, that means we’re prioritizing work from writers and artists who identify as Asian American. We also realize that “Asian American” is a broad and complex category—but bottom line, if you self-identify as Asian American, we want to see your work! (And if you don’t, we’d ask you to respectfully refrain from submitting.)

6. How many poems should I send?

Our guidelines specify a maximum of four poems totaling no more than than eight pages. (Please don’t send more than that; we won’t be able to read the extra poems.) But within that limit, feel free to send as many or as few as you’d like! It is often a good strategy to send at least a couple if you’re also sending your work to other journals, however—that way, if one of your poems gets snapped up by another magazine first, we still have something to choose from if we want to publish your work.

7. Can I email you my work instead of using Submittable?

Unfortunately, we don’t accept unsolicited submissions via email. If you experience a problem with our Submittable forms, feel free to ask us about it via email, but we’ll still eventually ask you to submit your work via Submittable. This is actually a good thing for submitters—it’s easier to keep track of submissions when they’re all in one place, so by sending your work via Submittable only, you help ensure that we won’t accidentally miss or lose your work!

8. Your guidelines say that a poem can’t be previously published. What counts as “previously published”?

“Previously published” means that a piece has previously appeared in a published periodical (such as a literary journal), anthology, chapbook, or collection (book), whether in print or online. This includes self-published chapbooks and books. (As a literary magazine, we claim standard first North American serial rights, and rights revert to you upon publication.) However, if you’ve simply performed the poem at an event, posted it on your blog, or shared it on your personal social media, we don’t consider it published. We realize there are lots of ambiguous cases out there, though, so if you’re ever unsure whether a piece that you intend to submit counts as “previously published,” please don’t hesitate to send us an email and ask!

9. What are simultaneous submissions? What if my work gets accepted somewhere else while it’s still being considered by Lantern Review?

Simultaneous submissions are pieces that are currently being considered by more than one journal or contest. LR allows submitters to send in simultaneous submissions, but should a piece be accepted elsewhere, you must immediately contact us to withdraw it. The easiest way to do this is to message us on Submittable or to add a note to your submission indicating which piece is no longer available.

10. Submittable says that you are not accepting submissions, but the deadline hasn’t passed yet. What’s going on?

This probably means that we’ve maxed out our submissions limit for the month. Submittable limits small publications like ours to a certain number of total submissions per calendar month. Once we’ve received that number of submissions, the form automatically shuts down for a time. Unfortunately, this is not something we have control over—but the good news is that the form will always reopen (and the counter will reset) with the start of the next calendar month. Should this happen before the end of January/March, we are so sorry—but please don’t worry! The form will be up and running again on February 1st/April 1st.

11. How soon will you get back to me?

We aim to get back to you within about eight weeks’ time after the submissions period ends. However, we’re a very small team, and occasionally, there may be delays. We ask for your patience while we go through the pile; please know that we haven’t forgotten you if you don’t hear from us right away after submitting—we’re working through as quickly as we possibly can.

12. Given the theme, “Asian American futures,” does my work have to be about the future? Does it have to be about being Asian American?

Your work never has to be “about” being Asian American. We love getting to highlight the enormous diversity of topics and themes that contemporary Asian American poets are writing about—we’re so much more than boba and rice! Regarding the “future” part of the 2021 season theme, if you’re submitting to our Jan/Feb open submissions period, then, yes, we ask that the pieces you send have the future in mind in some way. If you’re 14–24 and submitting to our Youth Folio (Mar/Apr), then your work does not need to specifically be about the future—we consider that you (and your perspectives) already are the future of Asian America.

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We hope this helps to clarify our submissions process a bit! We encourage you to send in your work early and to carefully read both our general guidelines and the guidelines for your category (poetry or art) before hitting “Submit.” And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email (editors [at] lanternreview [dot] com) or on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram (@LanternReview) should you have any questions. We look forward to reading your work!

Click here to Submit to Jan/Feb Open Submissions: Asian American Futures (Powered by Submittable)

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Please consider supporting an indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Introducing Our 2021 Season: “Asian American Futures”

Call for submissions information graphic. LANTERN REVIEW. Call for Submissions: Asian American Futures. Regular Submissions (Asian American poets & visual artists): Jan 11–Feb 11. Youth Folio Submissions (Asian American poets & visual artists 14–24): Mar 11–Apr 11. lanternreview.submittable.com. (Black-and-white background photo of a wooden dock extending out over water into a foggy horizon; photo by Simone Mattielli on Unsplash.)
Save the date! Our first 2021 reading period opens soon.

It’s hard to believe that 2020 is nearing its end. (And what a year it’s been!) As we look ahead to 2021, we’re excited to announce that some changes are coming to LR’s magazine in the new year.

To begin with, we’re beyond delighted to announce that guest editor Eugenia Leigh will be joining our team for the duration of the 2021 season. Eugenia is an award-winning poet, the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows, a seasoned teaching artist, and former poetry editor at both Kartika Review and Hyphen. She’s also a past LR contributor and has written in the past for our blog. Eugenia will be helping to co-curate the magazine, and you also might hear from her via our social media from time to time. We’re so excited to get to collaborate with her next year, and hope you’ll join us in giving her a warm welcome!

Additionally, in 2021, our magazine will center around the theme of “Asian American Futures.” For the first time, we’ll also be having two separate reading periods: from Jan 11–Feb 11, we’ll accept regular submissions, and from Mar 11–Apr 11, we’ll be inviting young Asian American writers aged 14–24 to submit their work to a special youth folio.

We’ll post again to remind you when the first submissions period goes live on the blog starting next month. But in the meantime, here is the official call. We hope you’ll read it through, save the date, and consider sending something our way!

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2021 Open Submissions (Jan 11–Feb 11): “Asian American Futures” 

As we enter 2021, many of us face uncertainty or grief, but the new year gives us a chance to dare to hope. And there is so much to hope for in the Asian American community, from the leadership of young Asian American activists on the protest lines to the rising profiles of Asian American artists, writers, and scholars on the national and global stages. This season, we’re hoping to publish poetry and visual art that embodies the spirit of a “love letter” to the future of Asian America. Maybe you have something to say to the young people in your life. Maybe you look at Kamala Harris and see a glimpse of your own childhood dreams or even the dreams you haven’t yet dreamed. Or maybe you’re thinking about the work we still need to do: about climate change, police brutality, anti-Asian racism, incarceration at the border, rising food insecurity, the model minority myth. Maybe you’ll channel the prophetic, the visionary; maybe you’ll see glimmers of hope in the ordinary. However you interpret this call, we look forward to hearing what you have to say. Please read our guidelines and tips carefully and send us your work by February 11th.

This call is open to all poets who identify as Asian American. We especially welcome submissions from poets who identify with marginalized groups within the Asian American community. If you are a young poet aged 14–24, we encourage you to send us your work during our Youth Folio submissions period (from March 11th–April 11th) instead.

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Youth Folio Open Submissions (Mar 11–Apr 11): “Asian American Futures” 

Young Asian American writers are the embodiment of our present and future. For the first time ever, we are actively seeking open submissions from you: Asian American poets and visual artists aged 14–24. We have grown increasingly in awe of the passion, conviction, and creativity of young people in our community, and we feel inspired to offer this space as our love letter to you. We hope to create a folio filled with your own “love letters” to the futures you will claim, embody, become. Send us your best work on any topic—past, present, or future. It can be about things political, or it can be an expression of where you are now, what makes you tick, your personal hopes and dreams. We can’t wait to hear from you. Please read our guidelines and tips carefully and send us your poems or visual art by April 11th

This call is for Asian American poets aged 14–24 only; if you are 25 or older, please submit during our open submissions period (from January 11th–February 11th) instead. We especially welcome submissions from poets who identify with marginalized groups within the Asian American community.

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We’re excited for the new things to come in 2021: for Eugenia’s partnership, for our new youth folio, and to read what you have to say about the future of Asian America! Please stay tuned for more updates in early January. In the meantime, we’re sending our warmest wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy new year.

Peace and Light,
The Editors

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WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier

Layli Long Soldier, Whereas (Graywolf, 2017)

Please consider supporting an indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an Asian American–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-Asian-American-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

LR Issue 8.2 Is Here!

Cover Image: LANTERN REVIEW Issue 8.2, “Recoveries” (featuring a film still from Cindy Nguyen’s “Tokyo Glances”: blue-tinted photo of a waist-up, silhouetted figure in profile, wearing a white shirt and with short hair against an overcast sky. In the backdrop, a skyscraper with glass windows and another brick skyscraper to the side.)
Lantern Review Issue 8.2, “Recoveries”

It’s our pleasure today to announce that Issue 8.2, our second and final issue of the 2020 season, is live! Titled “Recoveries” after a line from antmen pimentel mendoza’s poem “Ode to the Moon, the Earth’s Only Satellite, with Years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” this issue speaks to the notion of survival, enacting creative resistance in the face of trauma and inviting us to consider how the work of the artist may chart new paths through the processes of healing and regeneration.

When we first chose the work that appears in Issue 8.2, we had no idea how 2020 would play out, nor how prescient these pieces would feel in the midst of the present moment. In addition to mendoza’s poem, Issue 8.2 features striking cover art by Cindy Nguyen, as well as powerful poems by MICHAEL CHANG, Tiffany Hsieh, and Heather Nagami. As we put the issue together over the course of the last two months, we were struck anew by these singular pieces and how they seemed to speak with even greater urgency to our current reality, transgressing boundaries of time, form, and geography to insist upon being heard above the fray. Today, we’re excited to finally share them with you.

We hope you’ll enjoy Issue 8.2. And as always, we’d love to know what you think—leave us a comment below or let us know on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter: @LanternReview.

Wishing you peace and light always,
The LR editorial team

Click here to read Lantern Review Issue 8.2: “Recoveries.”

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Cover of WADE IN THE WATER by Tracy K. Smith

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Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf, 2019)

Please consider supporting an independent bookstore with your purchase.

As an APA–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different book by a non-APA-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.

Poetry Toolkit: Holding Space for Grief & Healing in the Classroom

Header image. Poetry Toolkit: Holding Space for Grief & Healing in the Classroom. Gray and white text on a yellow watercolor-textured background. Black-and-white LR logo in the corner.

As I (Iris) write this, my heart is weary. Just last week, only one of the three police officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor was charged—and not for her murder. The evening of that announcement, I spoke with a friend who lives in Louisville. She told me: we are tired, we are frustrated, we are angry. Still, there is no justice.

California, the state where I live, is still burning. Last week, I read about Kao Saelee, a Mien refugee whose family fled to the US when he was small. During the last two (also incredibly devastating) wildfire seasons, Saelee worked to control the blazes as an inmate firefighter. This August, on the day he was released from prison, California transferred him not to his sister’s waiting car but to ICE detainment. Still, there is no justice. 

And still, around us, pandemic rages. The government moves to erase systemic racial injustice from history textbooks. Egregious human rights violations continue to be visited upon the refugees incarcerated at our border. And on and on and on and on.

For a while now, we’ve wanted to share some tools for making space for grief and healing through poetry. We know that many of you are teachers working with young writers during this deeply difficult (even traumatic) year. As educators ourselves, we know how creative writing can sometimes allow students needed space and permission to process, to breathe. And as poets, we know how the act of writing into grief can sometimes offer us just enough self-compassion and strength to go on. That sometimes, in the midst of suffering, poetry allows us not just catharsis but also access—to hope, to meaningful remembrance, even to joy.

The below prompts (each based on poems by writers of color—some APA identified, some not) and their variations are written with teachers and students of particular age ranges in mind. But you could write into any of these prompts (regardless of how they’re labeled) outside an academic context, as well.

Continue reading “Poetry Toolkit: Holding Space for Grief & Healing in the Classroom”

Six Questions for LR Editorial Intern Karen Zheng

Photo of Karen Zheng by Ray Ren (Poet with short hair and brown-rimmed glasses, wearing a black-and-white striped buttoned shirt and standing in front of a background of ivy)
LR Editorial Intern Karen Zheng (Photo by Ray Ren)

This fall, we’re privileged to welcome Karen Zheng onto the LR team as our editorial intern! Karen is a first-generation, queer, Chinese American undergraduate student at Dartmouth College studying English and creative writing (poetry). She is interested in exploring her intersectional identity in her creative work and, in her free time, hosts and produces the podcast Mx. Asian American. Karen will be helping us out behind the scenes with getting Issue 8.2 ready for publication, prepping social media content, and contributing to the blog. As you’ll be hearing from her from time to time, we thought we’d take a minute to help you get to know her. Read on to learn about Karen’s love for Ocean Vuong’s and Jericho Brown’s work, the activities that help her recharge when she’s not studying or writing, and more.

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LANTERN REVIEW: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you come to poetry? 

KAREN ZHENG:  I started writing poetry in middle school. In seventh grade, we were studying Langston Hughes and Edgar Allan Poe. One of the assignments in that unit was to write our own poems. I remember we were studying Hughes’s “Mother to Son” and analyzing the crystal stair. We had to write something that was similar, using the same metaphor of stairs. After I wrote a draft and showed it to my teacher, Ms. Mickish, she told me that I had talent and encouraged me to pursue poetry further. Ever since then, I’ve been writing. 

LR: What obsessions drive your writing and other creative work? 

KZ:  One of my poetry professors, Vievee Francis, always talks about a poet’s obsession, something that the poet always goes back to, writes about, and thinks about. For me, my obsessions lie in my Asian Americanness, queerness, and other childhood trauma that came with the intersectionality of those two identities. I also dabble in other creative work like podcasting and dancing. In my podcast, I aim to highlight others in the Asian American community as role models because I never had those growing up. 

LR:  What are your favorite poets, poems, or poetry collections of the moment?

KZ:  Ocean Vuong is my all-time favorite poet. His memoir, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, is so painfully beautiful. Other poets that I really enjoy are Danez Smith, Victoria Chang, Chen Chen, Matthew Olzmann, Terrance Hayes, Illya Kaminsky, Tyehimba Jess, and Jericho Brown. Recently, I’ve been obsessed with Jericho Brown’s The Tradition.

LR: Go-to karaoke song? 

KZ:  I’m actually the mic hogger at karaoke, but I usually only sing Chinese songs. I always have to sing《其实都没有》by 杨宗纬.

LR: Self-care is so important for creatives, especially during these times! What’s your favorite self-care tip? 

KZ: “Relax” is probably the best tip in general. I have trouble relaxing. I get restless during breaks. Reminding myself it’s okay to watch a few more episodes of a show, to journal, to draw, to color, or to space out every once in a while is crucial. Allowing myself to indulge in these activities really helps me to refuel and recharge. 

LR: Who are your APA role models? What are your hopes for the future of APA lit? 

KZ: Honestly, there are so many role models out there. All the poets I just mentioned, those who are doing nonprofit work, entrepreneurs, fitness influencers, etc., etc. Here, I’d like to talk about the Asian Hustle Network. Asian Hustle Network is a Facebook group where hustlers, young professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, and business owners from the Asian American community can come together and share their stories. Everybody there is so inspiring. It gives me hope for the community to continue growing and changing the world. My hope for the future of APA literature is for us to break into the “canon” and have APA literature be taught in schools, inspiring and influencing future generations. 

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We hope you’ll join us in warmly welcoming Karen to the LR team. We’re excited to have her on board this semester and can’t wait for you to hear more from her soon!

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Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Norton, 2020)
Please consider supporting a BIPOC-owned indie bookstore with your purchase.

As an APA–focused publication, Lantern Review stands for diversity within the literary world. In solidarity with other communities of color and in an effort to connect our readers with a wider range of voices, we recommend a different collection by a non-APA-identified BIPOC poet in each blog post.