As part of National Poetry Month, I was asked to write a short blog post for the Poetry Foundation. My piece is titled “Self Portrait in an Academic Poetry Industrial Complex Mirror.” I decided to write about academic poetry, power dynamics, the relationship between rigor in writing and rigor’s complicity in the student loan crisis. There’s a lot in there. I end on cute animals. It’s a fairly honest assessment of where I currently land related to all these issues.
Also, I find the graphic for the essay HILARIOUS. I’m grateful to my boyfriend for finding someone to do this quickly for me. I’m referencing the avant-garde’s, academicization and institutionalization through an oblique glance at John Ashbery with this image.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
When I was asked to write this blog post, I had many topics I considered, but I kept returning to this—that the relative rareness of my not being in academia is in fact a rare thing… especially when I can’t help but feel that my work is so, well, academic.
What I’ll try to touch on is the relationship between experimental aesthetics and economic exploitation in the academic poetry industrial complex. Are you a PhD escapee, like me? Do you want to get an advanced creative writing degree? Are you writing faculty somewhere? My post will hopefully resonate with you.
I’ll be supporting the incredible Suchitra Mattai’s Final Friday takeover event at the Denver Art Museum at the end of this month. If you haven’t had the chance to experience her thoughtful installation and textile work, RUN to this.
You will find me reading some poems in the Jordan Casteel exhibition (!!!) with the beautiful Serena Chopra.
I had the chance to be pet of a group show Joshua Ware curated at Georgia Gallery in Denver last year with Suchitra, and I’m a HUGE FAN.
The whole night should be a lot of fun with tons of engagement opportunities for folks of all ages.
I’m excited to share that I’ll be supporting Emily Yoon’s new book release, A Cruelty to Our Species, at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop on Tuesday September 25th. Emily is an incredible writer, community builder, and advocate for the vibrant complexities of Asian/American cultural expression. I’m honored to see her share this new work in person and read with her, Wo Chan, and Kristin Chang.
On a personal note, I’m deeply touched to have been asked to share with this next generation of upstarts, innovators, and community builders. They’re taking our movement into new directions and necessary conversations, and it is a joy to bear witness and participate in that. When I was coming up as a writer almost 20 years ago (gasp), I wasn’t certain if there would ever really be a community for me. I got used to being the only As/Am author in so many spaces, and frankly the way I was approaching language often felt far afield. I’m so proud of the way Asian/American literature has centered on complexity, challenge, and nuance. I’m proud of our community and grateful for all who continue to pour themselves into it.
Wow. I woke up this morning to an announcement that PoemTalk (hosted by The Kelly Writers House at UPenn) held a discussion about two of my poems from my first book. Amazing. So much gratitude to Al Filreis, Sawako Nakayasu, Donato Mancini, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague for the generous attention and care.
I’m part of this amazing group show at one of my most favorite art spaces, Georgia, in town! I’m thrilled to be in such amazing artist community. It opens Friday September 21.
I’ll be presenting a video piece about intimacy titled “To Be Alive, the Softest Splendor.” To view it, you crawl under a blanket fort and put on some headphones. I’m grateful to Joshua Ware for including me and the amazing Sommer Browning for making such lovely community gatherings possible.
To Be Alive, The Softest Splendor (installation and video, 2018)
The relational experience of intimacy—of discovering yourself in a shared moment of human connection and vulnerable safety—invokes a special attention, one that focuses heightened interest on fine details. The glorious beauty of a turning hand, the gentle play of light catching on someone’s hair.
I have found that urban environments invite me to narrow my attention far more than vast open landscapes—the sense of density and crowding requires me to hone rather than diffuse. This was something I mourned for many years, as I felt it was a sad survival response to regular street harassment and an assault I experienced while living in Philadelphia. By narrowing my attention, I realized I was trying to shield myself from the aggressive or hateful interest of others. A cocoon of focus. This video piece is a small healing effort—to remind myself of the beauties in being small.
I believe that gentle attention is a type of love—in these cases, that loving interest casts a friendship light onto my friends’ bodies as they share a little bit of their time and stories with me. My hope is that while viewing this piece, Georgia’s guests will share in the affectionate interest I experienced while making this piece; that we’ll all collectively remember what a joy it is to be alive, the softest splendor.
I’m headed to a new artist residency program out in the forests in Washington state, the Rockland Woods Residency. I sort of can’t believe all the amazing artists I’ll be in community with. I’ll try and feature them each while I’m there. I hope to make some video work about desire and landscape, write some alchemy poems, and make friends. I think it’s going to be good for my soul!