These are strange and heavy times we’re living in. As many of us find the physical confines of our daily worlds suddenly reduced to the square footage of our homes, books—more than ever—can help us to feel connected to the outside world. Whether you’re restless, in need of solace, or simply lonely for another voice, here are some new and recent books by APA poets to keep you company.
Though LR contributor Michelle Peñaloza’s Hillary Gravendyk Prize–winning debut collection came out last August, it’s been on this editor’s reading list for what seems like forever. I was a big fan of Peñaloza’s 2015 chapbook landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias 2015), with its powerful, geographically grounded vignettes and close attention to imagistic texture, and Former Possessions seems to promise a similar deep engagement with the complex layers of trauma and history with respect to narratives of place and migration.
Sok masterfully weaves together the skeins of narratives left fragmented by the legacy of war, trauma, and diaspora with a skillful hand, moving fluidly between past and present; Cambodia and Pennsylvania. Together, the poems in this debut collection comprise a whole cloth that is by turns tender and unflinching—not unlike the beautiful length of strong yellow silk (handwoven by the author’s grandmother) whose image wraps the cover of the book itself.
Yes, PAGPAG is fiction, not poetry, but it’s by LR contributor and APA literary great Eileen R. Tabios—we’d be amiss not to feature it! Hot off the presses (it was released barely a fortnight ago), this collection of short stories is not one to miss.
To see all of the Pocket Broadsides that have been posted on Tumblr thus far, visit the project’s main page at pocketbroadsides.tumblr.com. To read each new piece as soon as it is posted, follow us on Tumblr, or subscribe to the RSS feed.
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 post is a triple feature and includes reads from Issue 2 contributors Michelle Peñaloza, Kenji C. Liu and Gowri Koneswaran.
Here’s what I’m hoping to get to this summer:
Atlantis by Mark Doty The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata Natural History: A Selection by Pliny the Elder Just Kids by Patti Smith Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson
Michelle Peñaloza grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. Currently, she is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kartika Review, Mythium, Nashville Review and Birmingham Poetry Review. She was awarded the Women Writers Oregon Literary Fellowship for 2011.
For APIA Heritage Month 2011, we are revisiting our Process Profiles series, in which contemporary Asian American poets discuss their craft, focusing on their process for a single poem from inception to publication. This year, we’ve asked several Lantern Review contributors whose work gestures back toward history or legacy to discuss pieces of theirs that we have published. In this installment, Michelle Peñaloza discusses her poem “Vestige,” which appeared in Lantern Review Issue 2.
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I wrote “Vestige” in response to one of Geri Doran’s prompts in my first M.F.A. workshop at the University of Oregon. I enjoy prompts, particularly Geri’s: they stretch my imagination and lead me, sometimes nudge me, to subjects and structures I would otherwise never have considered. “Vestige” began from a wonderful prompt: “Write a poem of slow praise or meditation. Find a space free from all distraction. Turn off your cell phone, don’t check your email. Be spare, intense, quiet, alone.”
When I began the first draft of the poem, it was a very hectic time—the end of my first term of grad school. For nine weeks, had been writing two new poems a week—one for workshop and one for a forms seminar. I was utterly exhausted by the time I got this prompt and initially had a hard time sitting with myself in the quiet, letting the poem happen. At the prompt’s suggestion I read John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets” and was, as I always am with Donne, struck by his conviction and devotion. As I began writing this poem, I reflected on how my ideas of holiness and faith have changed since I was a child.
I was raised Catholic, but no longer claim that faith. Yet, I still find value in recalling the sensory experiences of my religious upbringing—the candles, the incense, the quiet interspersed with canticles and scripture, the rituals of mass. Meditating upon these experiences in tension with doubt and within the context of loss, inform the first thirty or so lines of “Vestige.”
I think there can be holiness in poetry. I find awe and a spirit of praise in the mundane aspects of daily living. The rest of the poem is a catalog, an accretion of those things in my life at the moment of writing the poem. One exception is the anecdote about the old man doing the dishes, which came to me third hand—when I heard Lawson Inada re-tell this anecdote of Thich Nat Hanh’s.
I wanted to close the poem by returning to the materiality of Catholic mass, but I wanted to place that materiality outside the context of church and juxtapose it with mundane yet vital things—buttered toast, the breath of a lover, the washing of dishes. My aim with the poem’s syntax, catalog and anaphora at the close was to convey the music of discovery and the conviction of what is holy for me.
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Excerpt from “Vestige”
The creak of pews makes my knees ache,
my palms and fingertips kiss.
Phosphorus, censers, old mahogany,
old penitents close to death and God,
boxed wine, and candle wax work upon me
like the itches of an old collared jumper.
The poetry of worship seeps from memory to body.
I confess to the air. Forgive me, Air, I cannot believe. It has been three years since my last quiet.
I hold a rosary, count its beads
like the redolent string of rose petals
my Lola held close when she died.
After prayer, the attar of her rosary melded
with the garlic bouquet of her hands, bulbous
scents cradling, caressing my face.
I roll each pressed round between
my forefinger and thumb, keep count: my guilt, lack of conviction, rage—
in this confession, my hands tell me
I am not free. I cup my tangled strand,
pass it between my hands. The attar
now lives in the leaf creases of my palms.
The quiet whispers, scent is memory’s companion.