AWP this year was different. It was in D.C. three weeks after the inauguration of Donald Trump, and the result was that activist events happened every day, from marches to the White House to candelight vigils to the #NoWallsAWP human wall demonstration in the bookfair itself. AWP is always exhausting, but this year it was rejuvenating, too, in a new way for me. I was so lucky to be surrounded by so many writers who are also activists. And lucky to bring home with me so much of their writing, in my ears from readings, and in books.
I traveled to Okinawa, where I grew up on Kadena Air Base, for a few days during winter break. While I was there I decided to walk all the way around the base, photographing the fence: what can be seen through it and what it obscures. My hope is that this walk around the perimeter will form the basis of an essay I've been trying to write for the excellent new journal Territory, which publishes work exploring the ways maps always map more and less than they mean to. Look for that sometime this spring!
I'm so grateful for poets and for festivals which support them. Meeting other writers and readers at the Singapore Writers Festival and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival has been an anchor and a solace after this election.
I'm on two panels: one on poetry and mixed media, and one on American writing and the Pacific. Singapore's literary scene is vibrant and well-established, something I've admired from a far for a long time. I've gotten to review a few books put out by Math Paper Press, and I've loved what they publish--beautiful design, and really good poetry. So I'm excited to meet those folks. And I also get to read with poetry hero Cole Swensen! The whole schedule's here.
If you've talked to me in the last year about poetry, you've probably heard me say something about the bilingual digital collaboration I've been working on. Finally we're launching it! We hope to have several performances/installations/readings, and here's the first. It's happening Monday, 27 June, 5:30-7:30PM at Gallery 360*, CityU's immersive digital theater-in-the-round.
I'm particularly excited about this project because it's the first collaborative work I've done, and also the first bilingual poetry I've been involved with. The poetry draws on Hong Kong's Basic Law and canonical Chinese poetry, and uses erasure and syntax replacements to make animated, interactive art. It's pretty awesome. I'll post video when I have it!
Exhilarating and exhausting both, as always. AWP was in LA, which meant I got to see lots of UC Irvine friends and also eat a ton of tacos. I kind of missed University Hills, which I never thought I'd say. But it has shade and cats and silence, which turn out to be more valuable to me than many many other things. (Also friends and tacos.)
My panel, "The Poetic Past," went well, and I'm especially glad to know more about the work of co-panelist Bettina Judd, whose book Patient. is amazing. And I came home with a collapsible-backpack-ful of books. Check it out:
This month I begin my spring semester residency at Lingnan University, Hong Kong's liberal arts college. I'll do workshops on fiction and poetry writing for students in English courses, as well as for the wider community during Lingnan Arts Week, and will mentor students as they edit and produce a literary journal. But mostly, I'll be writing in this office. Hurrah!
November is the busiest month of HK's literary year. My panels at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival with Dorothy Tse ("Imagination Beyond Genre") and Tammy Ho Lai Ming, Nicholas Wong, and James Shea ("Four Poets in Hong Kong") were excellent, and I learned a lot during both of them.
The CityU MFA Programme's final mini-residency brought Suzanne Paola, Sybil Baker, Rob Magnuson Smith, and Pulitzer finalist Eowyn Ivey to CityU for a weekend. They're all fantastic readers, and I've got some new fiction to carry me through the rest of the year. It was also really nice to say hi one last time to all the MFAers--I will miss them. RIP, MFA Programme.
This week I'll read with the International Writers Workshop poets at HKBU: Bidisha, from the UK, Alecia McKenzie from Jamaica, Mariko Nagai from Japan, and Oumar Farouk Sesay from Sierra Leone. Tammy, Nic, and James, as well as Kate Rogers, will also read: HK poets galore!
The next day I'll head to HKU to hear Li-Young Lee read. His "The Rose" was one of the first books I ever taught in a poetry class, so it will be particularly nice to hear him in person.
And the end of the month brings Bei Dao's International Poetry Nights, the highlight of which for me will be hearing, and hopefully meeting, Peter Cole and Kim Hyesoon. My Juked co-editor Michael Barach interviewed Peter Cole for this year's print issue--a nice coincidence that he'll be visiting Hong Kong!
The HKILF's first weekend was packed, and excellent. Former students read beautifully at "Our Future Voices," and I met writers Nina McConigley, Luke Kennard, and Jabari Asim, who all turn out to be fantastic speakers, too. Looking forward to the rest of the week!
My first APWT was pretty great. Getting shown around Manila by people who live there was a treat, and somehow the whole weekend it never rained. Manila is pleasantly breezier than Hong Kong, though about as warm and humid. And spacious! I'd forgotten what it was like to be on a broad green campus like UP Diliman's.
The best part of the conference was getting to know my panelmates and their work. Ravi and I proposed the topic "Collaborative Poetics," but it was one of APWT's directors, Butch Dalisay, who put us in touch with our other contributors: Larry Ypil, who's doing amazing work with Filipino artifacts from the 1904 World's Fair that he discovered at the University of Iowa's archives, and David Perry, whose collaborations with poet Sawako Nakayasu and artist Zhang Jianjun were a revelation.
Also, I had read about the Philippines' extensive network of creative writers and writing programs, but experiencing it was something else. Multiple universities have creative PhDs and MFAs, and there are several publishers making beautiful books. James Shea, fellow Hong Kong poet, heard about a bookstore called Solidaridad run by F. Sionil José, the poet most likely to be nominated for a Nobel, according to pretty much everyone we talked to. It was a dream bookstore: packed chock-full of poetry and history books.
Of course, the other thing I went looking for besides great literary culture was great food. Which Manila delivered in spades. I'm hoping to go back for more of this soon. Or maybe find it in Hong Kong? Wish me luck.
A lot's going on this fall. I'll be at the Asia Pacific Writers & Translators conference in Manila October 21-25, and then on two panels at Hong Kong International Literary Festival the first week in November. November 18 I'll be reading with Hong Kong Baptist University's International Writers Workshop. Check the schedules and panel topics here. Hong Kong fiction writer Dorothy Tse and I were interviewed for a piece in the Chinese-language City Magazine. And a few poems from The Ground will appear in Another Chicago. And good news: I'll be at AWP on a panel about "The Poetic Past," and tabling for Juked. Looking forward to LA in springtime!
Several spots of good news lately: The Ground was a bestseller at SPD in June! And the book is finally available at Book Depository, so readers outside the U.S. can get it more easily. A new erasure, not formally part of the book, is up at The Volta as part of Brandon Shimoda's 70th Anniversary Hiroshima/Nagasaki feature. And finally, this month I'll be in the U.S., traveling up and down the west coast for readings. Check here for the full list, and I hope to see you!
Lots of good stuff happening this summer. July 20-21 I'll be the visiting poet at CityU's MFA program summer residency, reading Monday evening at 7PM (open to the public) and giving a craft talk for students and faculty Tuesday. The following Sunday, I'll be Kubrick Poetry's guest as we discuss The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground and erasure poetry. In August, it's the U.S.! Check out my West Coast reading dates here, including LA, Portland, Seattle, Enterprise, OR and Moscow, ID. Hope to see you, Westerners.
The Ground is here! We sold out at AWP, and the next printing will be ready at the end of the month. You can find copies at SPD, and soon at Amazon, and the ebook version is on its way. The companion website is also live at www.thegroundistandon.com, where you can explore the interactive poems.
The first review is also in! Barbara Duffey includes great teaching prompts with her National Poetry Month review series. If you don't follow her, you should.
Upcoming events: the book will launch in Hong Kong along with Nicholas Wong's wonderful Crevasse at The Fringe Club on May 6. Check out The Ground's events page for details, and for an updated list of other events.
A new poem from The Ground is up at the excellent new journal Pangyrus. Check it out for a preview of the interactive version of the whole book.
An update on AWP events: The Ground will launch on Thursday, April 9, at 6:30PM at Honey. Forrest Gander will introduce the book, and other readers include Marilyn Chin, Arielle Greenberg, and Patrick Rosal, so it promises to be a good time.
If you miss me at Honey, later that night at 8PM I'll be celebrating the launch of Hick Poetics at Patrick's Cabaret, reading along with contributors including G.C. Waldrep, Dara Weir, and others. Friday, from 1-3PM, I'll be at the Drunken Boat table at the bookfair, signing copies. Come say hi!
Friday from 6-8, Juked is co-hosting a reception with Solstice, Grey Sparrow, and Talking Writing. We'll be recovering from two days of AWP at North 45, Millennium Hotel 1313 Nicollet Mall (look for our event on the AWP offsite list).
And I'll be manning the Juked table on and off. I would love it if you'd stop by to say hello.
Fantastic news! The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground has been selected by Forrest Gander as the winner of Drunken Boat's inaugural poetry book contest. The book will be out in print and as an ebook in April. If you're at AWP, maybe I"ll see you at Drunken Boat's off-site event: Thursday at 6:30PM at Honey!
"Across July," a poem from The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground, is up at Drunken Boat, and two non-poetry pieces have just come out online, too: a craft talk at The Southeast Review, and a "Dispatch from Hong Kong" in The Asian American Literary Review's series of dispatches in their Fall/Winter 2014 issue.
I'm happy to be the new Poetry Co-editor of Juked, along with Michael Barach.
New work (and some old) is coming out this spring in the Lost Roads Press anthology Hick Poetics, edited by the wonderful Abraham Smith and Shelly Taylor. I'll be at the AWP reading Thursday evening and would love to see some familiar faces.
Two new poems are in Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz, from Chameleon Press. I'll read in company with many of Hong Kong's finest poets at the launch, November 12 at The Fringe Club in Hong Kong.