Ahh I’ve got 2 very queer, very season-obsessed poems in the new Massachusetts Review, which is an issue devoted to Asian American literature. Here’s one poem, “Spring.” You can read this one closer up as well as the other one, “Winter,” over on my Instagram.
What a gift, a blessing, to be a part of such a gorgeous issue, alongside ✨ shining stars ✨ Kazim Ali, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Wo Chan, Floyd Cheung (a former teacher of mine!), Marilyn Chin, Franny Choi, Kimiko Hahn, W. Todd Kaneko, Swati Khurana, Christine Kitano, Hyejung Kook, Joseph O. Legaspi, Sally Wen Mao, Rajiv Mohabir, Diana Khoi Nguyen, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Raena Shirali, Ocean Vuong, Jane Wong, Shelley Wong, Bryan Thao Worra, John Yau, Timothy Yu, & others. ❤️❤️ With many thanks to the guest editors, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials and Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. And what an amazing feature of this issue, the lectures and addresses—Asian American writers talking about, thinking about other Asian American writers.
This publication also marks a personal milestone: my third time in the Massachusetts Review! Having grown up in Amherst, then Boston, this journal has long been on my radar—was one of my first dream pubs. So glad, as an Asian American who most strongly feels “from” Massachusetts, that my third contribution to the journal is for this issue.
At the same time, my continued reading and working in Asian American studies lead me to question “belonging” to any state under rubrics of “American-ness” (too often dependent on proximity to cishet whiteness). Also considering who has yet to appear in this and other “Asian American issues” of journals—and how I can help shift things, with such issues and beyond this framework of the special issue and “inclusion.” Grateful to the writers in this issue for reminding me to keep pushing my imagination, my politics, my craft.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
—Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese”
It’s been a stressful, difficult week, and to learn of Mary Oliver’s passing is so crushing. Hers were among the first poetry books I found as a high schooler, wandering the local library, starting to seek out poems on my own. Out of need. Today, I need these words of hers again.
Grateful also to Brandon Taylor for a beautiful essay on why this poem matters, “How Mary Oliver Helped Me to Breathe Again.”
& I’m thinking of, I’m breathing in, I’m saying out loud this line of Oliver’s (from “Don’t Hesitate”), as well:
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Thanks to Heather Salerno for interviewing me and writing this article for Brandeis Magazine. We discussed my book, the National Book Award long list, teaching, and what writing means to me. It’s such an honor and a pleasure to serve as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University. Thanks also to Mike Lovett for the photography. You can check out the whole piece here.
Thanks to librarian Gwen Glazer for including my book in "How to Read Harder in 2019," a recommended reading list for the New York Public Library. Great to be on here alongside poetry books by Nicole Sealey, (BOA pressmate!) Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, and Tracy K. Smith.
Check out all the recommended books, across twenty-four categories!
i tap on the window of feeling
unseen & the window
refuses to personify me
—from “four short essays personifying…”
Many and most queer thanks to Luiza Flynn-Goodlett and everyone at Foglifter for assembling this amazing new issue. My contributor copies arrived recently and I’m so glad to have three new poems in this issue, alongside beautiful work by Kristin Chang, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Mai C. Doan, D. Gilson, and others.
Here’s the beginning of one of my poems, “four short essays personifying a future in which white supremacy has ended.” (Yes, my obsession with long sentence titles is only growing.)
Read the rest of that poem here.
And get the full issue here.
Slightly belated but still super enthused thanks to Anthony Frame, Editor of Glass Poetry, for including my poem “I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party” (originally published in the Poem-a-Day series) in his 2018 year’s end list of recommended reading. What a blessing to find my work here, alongside stunning poems by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Kristin Chang, Yujane Chen, Cassandra de Alba, Logan February, Roy Guzmán, Luther Hughes, Sara Eliza Johnson, Rachel McKibbins, H. Melt, Noor Ibn Najam, Julian Randall, Leah Silvieus, Erin Elizabeth Smith, Shelley Wong, and others.
Check out the entire list here.
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down -
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing - then -
—from “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)”
Happy birthday, Emily Dickinson.
So excited to read at DePauw in the spring!! And wow. What mighty company I’ll have in this reading series. Many thanks to the organizers, to the English Department at DePauw.
The Poem-a-Day series played a vital role in helping me overcome my fear of contemporary poetry, so I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in exploring the genre but doesn’t know where to start. These daily poems introduced me to some of the poets who became a vital part of my love affair with contemporary poetry, including Hieu Minh Nguyen, Kaveh Akbar, Danez Smith, Safia Elhillo, Ada Limón, Chen Chen, and others […] Reading these individual poems led me to their full collections, and now contemporary poetry makes up 20% of the books I read.
Big thanks to Emily Polson for this shoutout in an article over on Book Riot, about the new Guest Editors for Poem-a-Day in 2019. So glad for this series on Poets.org and how it’s creating more and more voracious poetry readers. I’m also glad for this democratization of the selection process for Poem-a-Day—we need more people picking, more pickers of poems, more perspectives and tastes and delights. Read Polson’s full piece here.
And: read about the dozen Guest Editors for 2019, including TC Tolbert, Clint Smith, Victoria Chang, Paisley Rekdal, Samiya Bashir, Oliver de la Paz, and Sherwin Bitsui.
This post is to say, I don’t know how to feel about my mother. I love her, please don’t get me wrong. I love her with my entire body. But when does love lose to respect? Is this even an interrogation worth having? I don’t know. I don’t know. We have fun. We laugh. We “talk” as much as I can. I want to talk to her about how I feel about him. About how he makes me happy even when he’s just watching tv.
Deep gratitude to Luther Hughes for writing so movingly about my poem, “I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party” (first published in Poem-a-Day) in his monthly column for Frontier Poetry, “You Smell Like Outside.” I love seeing how folks, especially other LGBTQ folks, have connected with this poem—and how it’s leading to further thinking and feeling about these relationships with our mothers. Read here.
Bouquets of thanks to U.S. Poet Laureate (!!) Tracy K. Smith (!!!) for selecting & discussing my poem “In the Hospital” in this new episode of her podcast, The Slowdown. Poetry podcasts are joy. Listen here.
Many thanks to the editors at Foglifter and West Branch for nominating my work for the Pushcart Prize this year.