A Conversation with Oliver de la Paz

Oliver de la Paz is the author of three books of poetry: Names Above Houses, Furious Lullaby, and Requiem for the Orchard. He is the co-editor of A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry with Stacey Lynn Brown, and co-chair of the Kundiman advisory board. A recipient of grants from NYFA and the Artists’ Trust, his recent work has appeared in the New England Review, Sentence, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing and literature at Western Washington University.

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LR: Who were your earliest influences as a young poet? Was there a momentous decision to pursue this career?

OP: I’ve got a lot of early influences so I’ll name a number of firsts. My very first poetry book was The Selected Poems of Robert Penn Warren. When my parents first arrived in the U.S. they became subscribers to Readers’ Digest and part of the subscription deal was to receive three gift books with their subscription. One of the gift books was Robert Penn Warren’s book. So apart from my mother’s medical texts, I was pouring over Robert Penn Warren’s poems, not really understanding what was happening in them, but having a profound curiosity over the work.

The first poetry books that I ever purchased for myself were for a poetry class in college. I bought Galway Kinnell’s Book of Nightmares and Adrienne Rich’s Atlas of a Difficult World. The poetry collection that really opened my eyes to the sonic qualities a poem could have was Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. I still have the first two tercets memorized: “The Sunday lamb cracks in its fat./ The fat/ Sacrifices its opacity . . . ”

The first poetic influence that affirmed I could be a poet was Li-Young Lee’s first book, Rose. I was deciding between continuing a career in the sciences, or pursuing poetry. At the time, I was a care provider in a supported living home for the developmentally disabled and an EMT. I had a lot of time to read because the main client I worked with slept a lot due to the meds. So I read long into my shift. I imagine that was when I decided to pursue the life of letters. I wasn’t really excited about the lab work or the medical work I was doing, and I was feeling quite invigorated by all the poetry I was reading.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Oliver de la Paz”

Event Coverage: Reflections on AWP 2011

Ken Chen speaks at the AAWW's Friday Panel

(A note: this post is a reflection on some of the on-site events that we attended during AWP this year. Mia will write more about our off-site reading in a later post).

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since AWP 2011 ended, and here we are—as usual—egregiously late with the update.  Nevertheless, this year’s conference was a colorful and thought-provoking experience for us, and we would be amiss if we did not share at least a taste of what we took away from it with you.  At last year’s AWP, we got our feet wet, so to speak, meeting and connecting with a host of amazing poets, and soaking in every bit of Asian American poetry that we could.  It was an exciting and effervescent time for us—we were just starting to get LR off the ground, and we were looking ahead at how our project might find its space amidst the community that was already out there.

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Friends & Neighbors: 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize (Submit by February 11th!)

It’s that time of year again.  Our friends at Kundiman and Alice James Books are accepting submissions of full-length poetry manuscripts  for their annual book prize.  This is a unique opportunity for Asian American poets of all stripes (they accept entries from both emerging and established poets), and we highly encourage you to consider submitting your work.  (Not to mention that this year they are accepting electronic submissions in addition to traditional paper sub’s—a plus for both the environment, and for the money saved on postage!)

A few details, from the Kundiman web site:

Kundiman and Alice James Books are accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts for The Kundiman Poetry Prize electronically and by regular mail through February 11, 2011. The Kundiman Poetry Prize welcomes submissions from emerging as well as established Asian American poets. Entrants must reside in the United States.

The winner receives $1000, book publication and a New York City feature reading.

Kudos to Kundiman and Alice James for continuing this tradition of helping Asian American poets to get their work out into the world. More information about the prize and its submission guidelines can be found on Kundiman’s web site.  Or see our Issue 1 Community Voices feature on Kundiman for more about the organization itself.

Weekly Prompt: Postcard Poems

Image from Kristine Uyeda's postcard poem, "Red Riding Hood" (published in Issue 1 of LR)

This week’s prompt was largely inspired by the beautiful Kundiman postcard poems that we had the privilege of publishing in our first issue. Writing postcard poems can be a lovely exercise in multiple respects. They are, by nature, short, which is a challenge in and of itself.  Furthermore, they are handwritten, and in some cases, hand-illustrated, too.  The detail and attention that drafting them requires can add a dimension of intimacy to the finished product.  Additionally, the fact that they are necessarily one-of-a-kind means that each postcard poem becomes a little one-off publication unto itself, and the card’s fragility and vulnerability to things like fingers and rain as it travels through the mail means that the piece that is received on the other end is always inscribed with a physical history of travel and transfer from hand-to-hand-to-hand.  The exchange of postcard poems , furthermore, can be an excellent way to build community, inviting collaboration, response, and the incorporation of poetry on a micro-scale into the everyday correspondence of those who participate.

Experienced poets may find it satisfying enough to challenge themselves with the tiny spatial confines of a postcard, but I have also included a variation below that I’ve tried in the community/classroom setting with some success.


Create or find a postcard whose subject interests you (non-geographically specific subjects tend to work quite well).  Decide upon a persona, or voice, and an addressee.  From what space, place, or position is that postcard being written?  How might this sense of positionality affect the speaker’s attitude towards the addressee, and thereby, the tone of his or her address? Write an epistolary poem on the back of the postcard, using the small rectangular writing space to shape your poem’s form.

Classroom Variation (“Wish You Were Here”):

Write a poem in the form of a postcard from an unusual location.  When I’ve done this exercise with small groups in the past, I’ve come prepared with a handful of blank notecards on which strange, mundane,  wacky , and/or otherwise non-geographical ‘locations’ have been pre-written (e.g. “The Bridge of George Washington’s Nose,” “The Back of the Refrigerator,” “The Library Dumpster,” “The Bee’s Knees,” “Inside Harry Potter’s Shoe,” “The Kitchen Table,” etc.).  On the back side of each card, I’ll draw or print a “postcard” template (complete with spaces for mailing address and stamp, should the students decide to mail off their completed pieces). After introducing the concept of epistolary poems to the students and giving them a few examples, I allow them to choose a “postcard” featuring a location that interests them.  The students are then given the chance to try writing a postcard poem on the back sides of their chosen cards.  For younger or more artistically-inclined groups, adding an illustration on the blank front side of the card can also be fun.

I’ve you’d like some great examples of postcard poems, check out the Kundiman poems “Red Riding Hood,” “Leaving Cortona,” and “Dear Disappearing,” from Issue 1 of Lantern Review, or read the poems from Kundiman’s 2007 postcard project that appeared in Shampoo 31. As always, if this exercise inspires a poem that you’d like to share, please do send it in!  We are still accepting submissions for Issue 2.

Event Coverage: Reflections on AWP 2010, Part 1

Morning in Denver from our hotel window

Waking up to bright sun and brisk, springy weather every morning was just one of the many small points of brilliance that characterized AWP for Mia and me this year.  Having just come off winter (we both live in places that are not known for their sunshine during the first few months of the year), it was a treat to look outside our hotel room in the morning and see sun, blue skies, and mountains in the distance.  Denver was beautiful.  Even the snow that had been forecast for Wednesday held off for us.  But not even the gorgeous weather or the lure of spring fever proved powerful enough to distract us from the activity going on inside the harshly-lit interior of the Convention Center this weekend.  When I say that it was a wonderful AWP, I really mean it.  After last year’s conference in Chicago (I met Nick Flynn!  I heard Sun Yung Shin read! Lan Samantha Chang complimented my sweater! Poetry played in the elevators all day!) I was prepared for this year to be pretty darn awesome.  But my experience this year totally blew me away.  Part of it was the fantastic panels and readings that I attended.  Part of it was the excitement of walking around the bookfair and getting to talk about LR and hand out our bookmarks and mini-books. Part of it was the great hotel, great food, and Mia’s great company (I’ll admit that we took at least one night off towards the end of the conference just to spend some catching up and discussing each other’s poems over styrofoam cups of Ramen).  But a large part of what made the experience so great was the amazing generosity of the people that we met there, and the passion with which we heard them speak of their work and their involvement with communities of other writers.

Over the course of the four days, Mia and I went to panels and readings galore and spent lots of time in the bookfair.  In this two-part series, we’ll be reflecting on just a few of our favorite events.  For my post, I’ll be focusing on one off-site reading and three panels/readings that I particularly enjoyed.  For more about our experience, look through our Flickr gallery of photos from the weekend, and check back here at the blog for Mia’s followup later this week.

Follow the jump below to read my reflections on the Kundiman/Cave Canem Joint Reading on Wednesday, Thursday’s Kundiman Panel, Friday’s From the Fishouse reading, and Saturday’s Split This Rock’s panel.

Continue reading “Event Coverage: Reflections on AWP 2010, Part 1”

LR News: April Updates

The cruelest month?  We hope not — at least, not this year!  Lots of exciting things are going on this April for LR.  Here’s a quick rundown of our news for the month:

National Poetry Month Prompt Contest (Deadline EXTENDED)

We’ve had a modest response to our National Poetry Month Prompt Contest so far, but we’d like to give more people the chance to enter, so we’re extending the deadline to Thursday, April 8th. The same rules will apply (we’ll announce the third runner-up on Friday the 9th).  Please do take the time to submit a prompt if you haven’t already done so — it only takes five minutes, and if you win, you’ll not only have the opportunity to see your prompt featured on our blog, but will also receive a signed copy of Monica Youn’s Ignatz.

Lantern Review at AWP 2010

As we mentioned in last month’s update, the LR editors (Mia and Iris) will both be in Denver for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference next week, April 7-10.  If you’re going to be there, please come look us up around the Kundiman/Alice James Book table, or at one of the Kundiman events, and say hello!  We’ve been working really hard on some nifty promotional materials to distribute, so if you visit Kundiman’s table, you’ll also be able to pick up  bookmark and one of a series of handmade mini-books we’ve produced to featuring selections of our blog content.  Of you follow us on Twitter or are a Facebook fan, you’ve already seen some sneak peeks.  We’ll post photos of the finished products and a list of Asian American poetry events taking place at AWP on the blog early next week. (We’ll also do an event coverage post about AWP after we return from Denver).

April Community Calendar Updated

We’ve updated our Community Calendar page for the month of April.  As always, please continue to let us know about events we haven’t included.  We’ll continue to add to and update the list as the month goes on.

End of Reading Period for Issue 1

Our submissions period for Issue 1 will close on April 15th (tax day!) If you haven’t yet sent in your work, we want to see it!  You can find our submissions guidelines here. (Many thanks to those who have already submitted).

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Happy Passover or Holy Week to those of you who are celebrating!


Iris & Mia
Lantern Review Editorial Board

Friends & Neighbors: Reminder – Upcoming Kundiman Deadlines

Just a friendly reminder about the approach of two submission deadlines for Kundiman‘s programs:

1. Kundiman Poetry Prize submissions must be postmarked by tomorrow, February 16th.

2. Applications for the 2010 Kundiman summer retreat are now being accepted.  Deadline is March 1st.

These are two opportunities you won’t want to miss!

Editors’ Picks: Opportunities for Writing in Community

Here at LR, we value community as a space for growth and artistic exploration.  The mentorship that we receive when we work with older writers, and the camaraderie we experience when working with our peers can both be particularly important in encouraging us to push forward with our strengths and in challenging us to reach for new heights in our work.  Writing and creating alongside other members of the Asian American community can also be a incredibly transformative experience: on the individual level, it can help us to wrestle with our personal senses of vision and identity, while on a larger scale, it can help us to mobilize ourselves as a community.   There are many opportunities to participate in community writing workshops that happen throughout the year, but in this post we’d like to focus on three whose deadlines are coming up in the next few months.

Continue reading “Editors’ Picks: Opportunities for Writing in Community”

Friends & Neighbors: Kundiman Poetry Prize Deadline – Jan 15

We posted about it in our December Holiday Roundup, but since the postmark deadline for Kundiman’s Poetry Prize is this week, we wanted to put out the call one last time.


From Sarah Gambito:

“Kundiman and Alice James Books will be accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts for The Kundiman Poetry Prize.  The deadline is January 15, 2010.

The Kundiman Poetry Prize welcomes submissions from emerging as well as established Asian American poets. Entrants must reside in the United States.

The winner receives $2000, book publication and a feature New York City reading.”

Application guidelines can be found here. Or, read more about Alice James Books here.