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.

The Delusion of “Post-Race”

This term gets floated around a lot. Post-race. Post-racial. It’s clearly a reactionary term. To actually believe in it as a fundamental standpoint is totally ludicrous.

It’s on my mind at the moment because I just read Amiri Baraka’s excoriating response to the anthology Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American LIterature. Baraka essentially points to the delusion inherent in trying to erase an entire sector of lived experience for somehow harming or reducing the artistic merit of work produced by non-white artists. I say non-white because only “white” artists are allowed be “free” from history and society. “Whiteness” doesn’t have a “history.” That’s why it tries to destroy everyone else’s. But that is a blog post for another day.

POST-RACE only exists when “race” ceases to operate as a structural framework for exclusion, limitation, and oppression. To pretend it doesn’t have power doesn’t make it go away. Artists often turn to the aesthetic or formal as a way of distancing themselves from the social and material, which I personally think is delusional. Ignoring your body doesn’t make it go away. It makes it wither and sicken.

I call race a consensual fiction, but that DOESN’T mean that I think the way to transform it is to ignore it. I call it a consensual fiction because the differences that “race” brings into legibility actually aren’t fundamental differences at all.

Baraka is a spitfire intellectual who has provoked on many occasions. I, for one, am a fan.

As an “Asian American” author, these sorts of questions are always on my mind. To be “Asian American” is always a question of being. HOW am I what I am being right now? This is a constant negotiation between me, my environment, and my social context. History runs through and around me always. I am never just “me.” How to channel all these things into something fundamentally different is my constant challenge.

I love poetry for how it can model alternatives in thought. To read a poem is to have your brain potentially rewired. As a social phenomenon, though, poetry also exhibits society’s best and worst symptoms. These sorts of debates — of grouping and privileging, of distancing and differentiating — these are power plays.

Let’s be Real. Actual. True.

Daybook: tracing global reverberations

Since February, I’ve been trying to track how the circulating rhetoric between North Korea, the US, and South Korea echoes across the globe to shake even my spirit. Back in February, the DPRK tested another nuclear device and started “saber rattling” in preparation for the ROK/US joint military exercises scheduled in March. I find so many intriguing circuits in this love/longing/fear dance between North/South // East/West. In Underground National, I likened this dance to a dysfunctional love affair.

This new effort, tentatively called Daybook, extends and explores this psychological framework for thinking about these geopolitics. It’s very personal writing, though others may not see it as such. I’m not certain what to call this mode. Perhaps a psycho-geopolitical poetics. Personally, I situate my failed marriage, so many domestic troubles I’ve seen and lived through, in these geopolitical cross-currents, the multi-generational legacies of cultural traumas. I’m trying to understand this dilemma — of bodies and landscapes — through my body. Through language. I’m trying to set myself free. An impossibility. Can I enumerate.

Be black light, Juliette. Furling.
Be a rupture, no cirrus.
Be that torn antler stranded in the snow,
bony finger pointing to the sky. See.
Be that word. Be elsewhere, a presence.
Magnanimous and difficult.
Can you remain.

This writing is a challenge for me, since I’ve never had anything like a “daily” practice.

I don’t know what I’m making. It often aches in the center of my body, where my stomach nestles up against my spine, like a coal there. This project makes me feel small and strangely diaphanous, overwritten, consumed.


from the salient fact repeated early (4/19

We never respond as we should
with comical results
explain educate acknowledge ((frequently
inaction // action

I don’t know for sure
that lack of knowledge
has         “low reliability”
no one agrees


already the end?
did it ever begin?

pass on
pass over
pass by
pass the time away
so much to be done
not all of it interesting

rain on lens drab & gray pine barren & downs


The Next Big Thing!: Melissa Buckheit

Several of the writers I tagged don’t have their own websites yet, so I’ll be featuring their responses here! Melissa Buckheit’s site will be up this weekend, but in the meantime, check out her answers below…

What is the working title of the book?




Where did the idea come from for the book?


I began writing this book when I was in graduate school getting my MFA at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. About a year into my time there, many of the poems in the book, especially the first two-thirds, began to surface from what was a lot of time alone, a lot of time cycling alongside the creek that moves through the center of Boulder, a lot of time of exceeding silence, and a lot of time spent in the dark, at night, moving about on foot (and on bicycle) with my Canon AE1, almost melding/assuming the space with many of the plants, such as: night-blooming Morning Glories, many cool, silver birches, red-rooted bamboo-type plants which grow along the edges of the creek, and with the dirt, in the cool air and in the darkness which exists there at night. This is a deep and abiding darkness, almost empty and truly black, punctuated by the pallid light of the moon or the small porch lights in various colors which are popular for small, older houses and cottages.


For various reasons, I didn’t have a lot to say aloud for several years, not that I wanted to say to anyone about myself, nor of any intimate or true thing (I felt and chose to be very private, which I am anyway, but this was a necessity and a natural result of place and experience and self.) For a good period of that time, I didn’t have the ability to say anything of that ilk in my poetry, as well. Therefore, there was a lot of silence and time spent doing nothing or meditating, listening, watching water, a fascination and attention to repetition and patterns–amongst work and creative writing workshops and dance in my daily life. There was ‘White Noise’ of the quotidian, to steal back a poem title from the book.


The experience of the book, therefore, is one that parallels this place (geographical and emotional), and my perception of how/what exists in darkness. Darkness, not as a metaphor and not as some trope (evil or the unconscious) in humanistic thought, necessarily, but rather darkness as itself, as the interior and privacy of the thing, anything, and almost what grows or exists or breathes in this–which is also light, eros, suffering, emptiness and many other things. The light beside/in it, such as the nightshade, or pottery shards in the dirt, or algae that produce their own light chemically in the deep darkness of the sea, the sea which reflects the night sky, the lights of stars and reflectors, and others. These are material things, but inside of the energy and presence of these things, the feeling exists, the relationships of beings, the emptiness and presence, simultaneously, just like light in darkness.


There grew to be this theme (and others, in relationship, such as what is lost/from the past, particular echoes to ancient and Modern Greece, the sciences, experiences of gender, trauma, the visual/photography) which moved through the original manuscript. The last third of the book, written between 2005-2008, in Tucson, AZ (where I still live), was much a process of waiting–waiting for the what the rest of the book wanted to say, how it could complete itself like a breath but also like the desert is a continuous wave, an oscillation. In a way, the cycle of the book speaks oscillation rather than full stop. It doesn’t attempt to say how anything is, particularly, but how it can be, which includes the possibility of many things. I don’t trust too many statements in my own poetry, and I prefer the subtle, the in-between shadows and realities, the shards or silt that accumulates in the flow.


What genre does your book fall under?


Poetry, specifically lyric, prose poem and the serial poem. The manuscript form had several original pro color photography series in it, as well; the photograph on the cover is one of these images, taken in Boulder, also titled, “Noctilucent”.


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

Since I’m not really a ‘character’ type of writer (I read and write about novels and fiction, but unconsciously have killed off every character I’ve ever tried to develop in short, long or flash fiction, since high school), this is a bit of an odd question that requires a strange answer. I’m not narrative by nature as a writer, nor do I prefer it in my work; if I could assign stars, and starfish and Athens and orange night-lanterns, and willows as well, anonymous people and voice-overs, that would be best. Perhaps I’d want it to be a bit like the way Inagaki Taruho’s One Thousand and One Second Stories gives the moon a personality and a voice, with humor and sadness, both.

I have personally worked with video and film for years for play, performance and collaboration, often as installation conjoined with my own Modern Dance choreography.  A video installation of moments in the book could exist someday in one of my dances.


What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?


Nocti-lucent (use an etymological dictionary or the notes at the back of the book).


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

As stated, early 2002-early 2008 (the final draft).


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think we already covered most of this. In terms of outside sources, I was reading a lot of science books and journals–Astrophysics, Marine Biology, Astronomy, Physical Sciences; Photography art books; Archaeology; Tibetan Buddhism; Somatic Psychology and Trauma theory texts; as well as Eleni Sikelianos, Jane Miller, Lynn Hejinian, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Alice Notley, Olga Broumas, Homer, Sappho, Thoreau and Roland Barthes.


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

There are a lot of words in the book that are old or come from the Greek or Latin or require stipulative definitions (see the notes, again), combined with more common words. I’d also like to think that the musicality, the sound of the poems is particular and evocative and strong. I feel the music and spirit and feeling lead the meaning, rather than the other way around. There is a sense of the empty spaces in space and around us in the book, and darkness. Some people might read this as something sad, although I do not; I feel it is simply what is. I mean emptiness in reality and also in a Buddhist sense.


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

Noctilucent was published by Shearsman Books, Ltd, in the UK, in March 2012.

Mark your Calendars: Subterranean Technologies at the AAWW Friday April 27

Subterranean Technologies: The Ambient Poetics of Tan Lin, Pamela Lu, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Dorothy Wang, and Lucy Ives

Friday, April 27, 2012, 7PM

Join us for a night of ambient poetics with three experimental writers who probe the relationship between art- making and found technologies from parking garage reverberations to the neon glow of TV broadcasts. Treat your ears to Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the AuntPamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot, and Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s Underground National.  Williams College professor Dorothy Wang will moderate and Triple-Canopy Editor, Lucy Ives, will live-tweet the event.

The recipient of a Getty Distinguished Scholar Grant and a Warhol Foundation Writing Grant, Lin is the author of Seven Controlled Vocabularies, lauded by Warren Liu as “an utterly, compellingly boring film–I’ve already forgotten it in the best way unimaginable.” In Tan Lin’s latest work, Insomnia and the Aunt, a young man’s memories of visiting his Chinese aunt at her motel, recalled almost as if written by their TV set. The aunt’s memory ghosts her nephew’s television screen, their shared past-time.  The aunt “resembles the biography of a dead person where the dead person has somehow forgotten to die. She speaks casually, like the speech of a language without a speaker.”  Lin’s experimental novella is indexed by photographs, postcards, and the indicia to an imaginary novel, mimicking the seamless repetition and reproducibility of images on the television. In Lin’s beautiful and wonderfully odd elegy, technology acts as an emotive transmitter engaging the two relatives in erotic simulacra.

Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot profiles a noise music band’s search for the ultimate ambient sound and is the follow-up toPamela: A Novel, an experimental poetry classic and one of SPD’s bestselling books of the 90’s.  They sample revving engines, the parking habits of the rich and famous, and commercial parking spaces. Reading Ambient Parking Lot is comparable to “watching an indie webisode spin-off of ‘Behind the Music,’ as Lu tracks the Ambient Parkers’ absolute mediocrity in awkwardly-awesome crescendos and geeky-fantastic loops,” says Jai Arun Ravine ofLantern Review Blog.

The author of That Gorgeous Feeling and Underground National,Sueyeun Juliette Lee could be the only poet to write about U.S. intervention in Korea and the dating patterns of K-pop stars. Sueyeun is a transnational collagist who perverts found documents and replaces fixed histories of square footage, geographic boundaries, and global affairs editorials with erasure. In her second book of poetry, Underground National, Lee remixes celebrity suicides, tourism trends, and web splices to put forth a subterranean account of Korean culture.


This event is co-sponsored by St. Marks Poetry Project

@ Asian American Writers’ Workshop
112 West 27th Street, Suite 600
Between 6th and 7th Avenues
Buzzer 600
$5 suggested donation