I now write for Jacket2

Today is March 9th and all the clocks have been set one hour ahead. The day feels a bit different to me starting in this way. The rules tell me it is one hour, but my body and habits continue to believe in another. It will simply take a little time before the new type of day feels right to me again.

I’m sharing this because I am now blogging over at Jacket2 for their Commentaries section. My Commentaries series is called TIME TEXT BODY NOISE, and I’ll be writing about how we experience and imagine time when we read, hear, and see poetry happen. Though this is unstated on the site, I will predominantly conduct this exploration through Asian American poetics, though a few other poets will be in the mix, too. I’m tired of Asian American work being seen predominantly for its Asian Americanness.

I’ll be pointing to work by folks like Tan Lin, Myung Mi Kim, Janice Lee, Jose Garcia Villa, Divya Victor, and Hoa Nguyen.

Central questions about dailiness, the body’s experience of time, different modes of reading, listening practices, and the page as a field of time will be considered.

Wish You Were Here! Public Poetry Workshop This Saturday 9/14

3-6 PM  Saturday September 14, 2013
North Chinatown
*meet in front of the Asian Arts Initiative at 2:45
1219 Vine Street
Join Philadelphia poets Sueyeun Juliette Lee and Quyen Nghiem for a Hot Tea! public poetry workshop and exploration of public spaces in Chinatown. As part of the Asian Arts Initiative’s Tea Trike public arts initiative, we will walk through and explore two “public spaces” in North Chinatown — an urban park and an abandoned alleyway — as we enjoy tea and compose postcard poems to the city. Postcards invite loved ones and friends to imaginatively join us during our travels. They often feature a key image that represents the most memorable and beautiful aspects of our journey. In addition to writing poetry, we’ll be “editing” postcards of Philadelphia to include snapshots of ourselves and these abandoned spaces. Our postcard poems will strive to remind our community of those spaces that have been abandoned, neglected, and forgotten here in Philadelphia. Help us imaginatively revitalize these spaces with your dreams. Help us speak out to the community–Oh Philadelphia, how we wish you were here!
All ages are welcome.

Interview with Sun Yung Shin for This Spectral Evidence

I’ve been walking through something.

It has been brightly lit. I see and see fully.

With all this brightness descending into me, I haven’t had much ability to focus on other things.

I wanted to highlight, though, that an interview correspondence between me and sister poet Sun Yung Shin is up. THIS SPECTRAL EVIDENCE is an online journal that is slowly, carefully curating together conversations around poetry and its possibilities.

I am quite frank and forthcoming in this interview. We began our dialog just as I began moving through some big swells in my life. They’ve brought me into a new openness. Hopefully a generous one.

Symposium on Territory

ImageI traveled to Naropa University early last week to participate in this discussion with Craig Santos Perez, Kass Fleisher, and Juliana Spahr on territory. I was thrilled by the invitation back in the winter, since territory is one of the primary things I think through in a broad vein of my work. How is a space overwritten and transformed for us by the various, contentious, and overlapping histories and interests that render it visible to us? How do we participate in and move through these terrains?

The first night was the panel discussion, at which the four of us gave statements. I presented first on my relationship to KOREA as a diasporic subject. Juliana detailed the spaces she has written from/about/to across her body of work and some of her thoughts about her authorial decisions. Craig offered a rich historical framework for thinking about incorporation and the organization of spaces from a federal standpoint. Kass presented a spatialized framework for how different regions of the brain house and communicate trauma.

The second day, we each held workshops. I was very interested to see our various teaching styles at work. Our workshops were only 45 minutes long. I had struggled in my preparations for this workshop…it seemed short for me to get into a solid writing exercise, and I didn’t want to lecture. Without any shared texts or contexts for discussion, I worried that a dialogue might be too shallowly construed. I ended up deciding to treat this like an opening foray, an introduction to a type of writing practice.

I had asked my genius friend Sha LaBare if I could develop something from the ecography writing practice he designed, and he was incredibly kind and sent me some helpful materials that I pared down for the workshop attendees. I designed a parallel writing mode for the class, a terragraphy, which I introduced. My second book, Underground National, is a terragraphy (in hindsight).

During the evening, we each read. I was originally slated to read second, but there was a last moment switch, and so I opened the evening again.

I was introduced by one of the most generous statements by Angel Dominguez, a former UC Santa Cruz student now at Naropa. I remembered him from when I was in Santa Cruz a year ago. I have my eyes on him.

I felt stifled by the podium. I wanted to look into everyone’s eyes, but a spotlight made me feel as though I were speaking to a warm ocean churning softly in the distance. Am I alone? I felt my attention strive to reach out across the full span of the space, how it constantly collapsed back into my own body, the warm bright honey light on my eyelashes.

Kass read next. She shared from some notes. It was a free-style monologue describing in some detail a traumatic event that happened to her. She was agitated, upset. I mirrored these sentiments. I felt anxious, nervous, alarmed by her presentation. She was in a state of peril. She kept speaking. Several people left. I didn’t understand what had happened to us all. It was messy. The room was filled with an electric charge afterwards.

Bhanu rose with lightning eyes. They mirrored the alarm of what had just happened, streamed it back into a course of events.

Juliana read after a short break. She described her participation in several occupy actions in the Bay Area–actions that she brought her child to. Her work constantly reflected back upon her actions, narrated them with a flat-lined factuality.

Craig closed the evening with three pieces, two of which will appear in his forthcoming book. He drank a full glass of water. He was charming, he ventriloquized history, he cracked jokes. He glowed with good health. He described spam, it’s colonial and military arcs.

I learned a lot from my visit. I learned that I do not fare well in dry environments. I had a troubling dream my first night there. A friend was dying after having elected to transform their body’s interior into honeycomb. Everyone kept telling me it was too difficult to save them. There was nothing to be done. I felt without hope and small, crying before my friend’s seeping body.

I haven’t been able to sleep the night through since I’ve been back. Something is being set loose in me, maybe calving. I am restless. The other night, Rae Armanteout described restlessness as the impatience for what you don’t know will happen.

I saw how a community conversation could be infiltrated, filled up by one person’s preoccupations. I saw systems and histories break open to me but continue in their same courses. I saw myself blinded and speaking out of a body that limits my view.

The Next Big Thing!

I’ve been approached by three different authors, so I think this is a sign I should respond. Thank you to Cara Benson for being the tag that brought me out of my cave!


The Next Big Thing questions:
What is the working title of the book? 

It’s called Solar Maximum, a collection through which I am thinking through a speculative poetics.

The latest part of it, a chapbook titled A Primary Mother, is forthcoming any day now with Karen Randall of Propolis Press as part of the third installment of her Least Weasel Series. I’m very happy to be in such illustrious poetry company. It features shorter prose poems that are directly inspired by my love of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, and a longer poem in series dedicated to light.

Where did the idea come from for the book? 

Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, conversations with my ex-husband about sunlight and knowledge, and low-level global hysteria about “the future,” to name the most cogent centers.

Lem’s Solaris is a truly perfect book. In it, a team of scientific researchers descend upon a living planet, seeking to study it from a rationalist/technical perspective. The planet is sentient, but in ways that are completely outside of the researchers’ human capacity for understanding. The team experiences inexplicable spiritual visitations / hallucinations and a form of incredibly debilitating sadness that washes over them. Several of them die.

I’m so amazed at how Lem was able to characterize the impossibility for us to truly “communicate” with the Other. I was also floored by how he triangulates this inability through the framework of scientific endeavor, which dominates contemporary notions of valuable “knowledge” or “understanding.” He captures the true heartbreak of humanity — our desire for contact and the ways that our structures of consciousness prevent it — so perfectly in this novel.

Solar Maximum as a broader project tries to also map out similar impulses — how “knowledge” outlines imagined limits (for good and ill) of human experience, and how we try to make sense of catastrophe or devastation. The seeds for this project lay in an early chapbook of mine that Brenda Iijima published at Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs called Mental Commitment Robots. The premise of that collection is that contemporary life requires us to be something other than what we are; perhaps more animal, or more robot, or both. I really have to thank Brenda for putting that collection in the world and giving me faith that I wasn’t some weirdo, but that I was genuinely saying something, however odd it seemed to me at the time.

A big part of my graduate studies, personal interest, and previous creative work was invested in exploring how racial logic circulates. That has since expanded into a consideration of what frames “knowledge” for us, and how that impacts our ways of being.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry, loosely defined. Speculative. But there are strong narrative impulses that run throughout it … not like quantum or flash fiction, but something similar. I call it Speculative, for how it tries to inhabit a projected mode of consciousness.

One of the poems, forthcoming in the next issue of Aufgabe, explores daily life as a teenager at the end of time. Another piece was published as an e-chapbook with The Drunken Boat. This piece speculates on future virtual economies, environmental devastation, and the “threat” of China. The title poem of Solar Maximum imagines what human life might be like in those days before the earth is swallowed up by the sun.

Gee. Typing all this, my book sounds like a total downer. But it’s also purgative and beautiful. That’s my hope, at least.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 

I’d resurrect Ingmar Bergman or Kenji Mizoguchi to film the book. They’d take care of casting.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 

How we long to know.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 

I don’t remember.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? 

I think I covered that in an earlier question.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 

Hmm. I’m not sure how to answer this. It’s not a very “hip” read, that’s for sure.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I covered that earlier.

My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:

Brenda Iijima, Jai Arun Ravine, Jen Hofer, and Sujin Lee (Jennifer Kwon Dobbs), and Melissa Buckheit!!

On and On Screen

I have a new poem for a video up at Thomas Devaney’s video/poem journal, On and On Screen. Please go check it out, especially if you are interested in having your heart broken. The poem is for a salp’uri dance, a traditional Korean shamanic dance form for healing and freedom. My sister showed me this video over the summer, and I haven’t been the same since.

In fact, the salp’uri has inspired me to develop a whole new dance poetics practice. I’m not one who regularly dwells inside my body — or at least I haven’t firmly made a conscious effort to until quite recently — and I am making all sorts of unusual discoveries. I’ll be rolling out some of these dance poems in Philadelphia soon.

Featured Chapbook in the latest Drunken Boat

Dear Friends,

I wrote this collaborative piece imagining future economies a while back. It was presented at the &now festival in San Diego with Cara Benson, Rachel Levitsky, and Dana Teen Lomax (as a virtual presence) with a soundtrack by my friend Brian Thrash. Though the piece was originally conceived of as a performance, I felt that as a text on its own, it stood up really well and I was pleased with how it turned out. 

I asked my friend Nicholas DeBoer if he’d be okay with receiving a contributing author credit, as he gave me many of the lyric sections that went into the piece. He very kindly agreed! And now, it is up and published in the latest issue of DRUNKEN BOAT as a featured chapbook. Many thanks to guest editor Melissa Buckheit for fishing this work out of me. 

There are also a few of my “invisible” pieces, pieces that obliquely explore heartbreak and beauty in the most simplest way I know. If you have time, please take a peek.