BadA$$ Asian-American Poetry Finds


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With the definition of “Asian-American” constantly in flux, broader and broader intersections of ethnicity have begun to fall under this umbrella.  In the poetry realm, there has been a surge in new work from Korean-, Vietnamese- and mixed race-Americans. And while I’ve only just begun to investigate this fascinating universe, I’ve found some truly BadA$$ work that simply must be shared. (My picks followed by a quick list of where to find new poems.)



1. Sally Wen Mao, who first came to my attention several years ago when she hit the pages of Cave Wall and Drunken Boat and now has a new collection out with Alice James Books.

From Mad Honey Symposium: j1qNTxFZ_400x400


      Stigma, n. (in flowers) the female part of the pistil
that receives pollen during pollination

For Melissa W.

There is no real love in the apiary.
Hive mentality: 1. Fatten until you reign

your country on a throne of propolis.
2. Copulate until you explode

with larval broods. Honey makes me sick,
and so does the Queen Bee. Even

in sleep, I see the arrows point at drones
stuck to the ceiling, sparkling spastically

like the sequins on a girl’s yellow promMHSCOVER_USE-200x300
dress. Some girls pray to be Queen.

They think: wouldn’t it be terrific, to be
wanted like that. Wouldn’t it be terrific

to be stroked and adored, to lose your virginity
in the glorious aftermath of royal jelly.

Wouldn’t be terrific to roost, rest, be the envy
and the mother of all. But one girl turns

the other way. At lunch she eats green tea mochi
on the edge of the field, scouts unpopulated

places—a lemon tree, a barberry bush.
Dreading assemblies and cafeterias, she ducks

under the library’s front steps, smuggling
field guides or National Geographics

with covers of jewel beetles and capybaras,
counting the minutes until recess is over

and biology begins. The price of sincerity:
when the honeybee shucks the anthers

from the camellia, an anthem begins.
It’s a slow soprano. An anathema. It screams…

Full TEXt


2. Performance Poet and activist Bao Phi


From Sông I Sing (Coffee House Press)


Song-I-Sing-356x535Under the ocean where I was created
in a womb of dancing atoms, a tectonic tale
is breaking the skin of sea floor. Dreams burn here:
lava flows underwater like bleeding fireballs,
sunless sleep disturbed as they listened
for the sound of the nightmares they dropped.

Fat Man and the Little Boy drop,
like two suns tumbling, sent to destroy creation,
no one will be left alive to listen
for the lessons we need to learn from this tale,
just a skyline made of a blossoming fireball
and a symphony of silenced screams horrible beyond…


3. Poet/Teacher/Artist Franny Choi


from her collection Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody)




4. Arlene Kim 

also known as @quietlybananascontrib_arlenekim

reading “Curse”

from What have you done to our ears to make us hear echoes?(Milkweed Editions)

I am also rather fond of this one, originally published at Blackbird:


My love. I tended him
after he fell. His charred wing stumps,
his elegy of scabbed feathers. Only then
would he accept a bed, me
in it. The memory burnt into his limbs
burned me, too, so that only my negative remained
in what amputated dreams he had, what
eerie ornithology haunted him. My hybrid,
neither bird nor angel—I cameindex
to gather what boy there was left
to salvage.

I fold him paper suns, light them
on fire, hurl them skyward,
a revenge I can offer.
For a moment, the sun in his face,
twinned in his eyes.
For a moment, not the sun, but his face,
its reflection like the sun,
like an old story. In the water,
another sky, a ghost sun.
He didn’t know at first
if he was falling or…


5. Award-wining poet & playwright Ed Bok-Lee (looking all cool with his super snazzy website)


Excerpt from Whorled (Coffee House Press)


On the other side of the world, there is a language I have never heard
It is beautiful, and in this dying tongue, there are words for Love and God
that resemble Bread and Wing
Or another forest language in which Mother and Knife

equal Drawer and Sing
And Island Wood is somewhere Desert Milk
And Berry, elsewhere is a Door
And if you added up all these dying words, and the people who speak themindexw

All their memories, histories, and lessons
All their gods, jokes, rituals, and recipes
If you learned and stirred them, over and again, until
each utterance became a star, a new footprint, the marrow of a poem—

*originally appeared on Broadside from Red Dragonfly Press

See his website (linked above) for more poems.




Find new poets to fall in love with in:

Victoria Chang’s Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation anthology

Poetry Magazine’s Asian-American Voices in Poetry (with links)

And these journals:

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Kartika Review
Asian American Journal
Asia Literary Review
Lantern Review
Hyphen Magazine

You can also consult my Kick-Butt Asian-American Poets list (name pared down for Amazon filters), which is itself always in flux.


Happy reading!!! And be sure to share your finds in the comments.


2sDay Poems: Hot Out of Chicago with Highlights from Dancing Girl


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indexOk peeps, today you get a double shot from one my all-time favorite small poetry presses, the women-centric Dancing Girl Press & studio.

This artsy shop is run out of downtown Chciago by poet/artist Kristy Bowen, a talented gal with impeccable taste.

In addition to overseeing the publication of its annual chapbook series, Bowen also has on offer a quirky collection of paper goods/vintage ephemera and produces the feminist online mag wicked alice.

Two of Dancing Girl’s newest chaps are featured below with selections.  Click italicized title to order.


from In the Yellowed House

Janeen Rastall

by Janeen Pergrin Rastall


The surf lays out featherless wings537fb7a0c643a_80495n
and sanded birch limbs,
pieces once bound by ice.
Does a wave batter debris into something better?
A woman goes to the lake.
shorts and t-shirt taunt early May,
faded welts dapple wintered flesh.
She carves the sand with a stick,
draws two names inside a heart.
In an hour the beach will be blank.
She has predicted this end,
tasted it on his menthol tongue,
felt it in each whorl and callus,
every knuckles’ edge.
When waves encroach, she snaps
a photo with her phone.
She will not stay
to see her name sucked back with the sand.

The audio for this poem is at The Poetry Storehouse.



from For the Girls, I

Christina M. Rau

by Christina M. Rau


Cathy—it’s a sweet name,
one who loves her husband
but since she’s got a bit
of resistance in her, maybe53ac975abbe74_80495n
it’s Kathy, with a K,
or Kat since she’s got some
sass, too, or Katerina,
a strong, sexy name,
but that would make her too skinny.
No one has ever seen a fat Katerina;
Fat Katerinas simply do not exist.
She needs to have some weight
so she can throw it around
when she stands her ground.
Georgina—slender with a slight belly,
a woman who can bellow at the Gods,
but that’s not old enough;
it needs to be antiquated,
like Antigone, but not as depressed,
like Aphrodite, but not as beautiful,
like Angelika, but less cinematic.
Frannie, Francine, that must
be her name—no, Francesca,
a woman with looks, older but not
too old a soul, one strong enough
to love a man whose heart attacks him
and then kills him
though he refuses to die.
Perhaps that’s too pretty still;
even a slightly average woman
would move on.
Laura, Maria, Betsy, Daphne,
Portia, Sally, Vesta, Wanda,
Yolanda, Zelda, Helen—
nothing quite fits.
They are all slightly off.
Nothing safely and soundly
encompasses all that is the woman
who stands by her man
in the face of his false immortality
and the consequences of his
undeadly denial.


DGP: Chapbook manuscripts currently being accepted from women poets through August 31. Guidelines.

Sunday Sentence #9


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imagesMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

Poetry began when somebody walked off a savanna or out of a cave and looked up at the sky with wonder and said, “Ah-h-h!”

SOURCE:Lucille Clifton in conversation with Bill Moyers (part of his compilation of conversations with 34 poets from the PBS TV Series) in The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets

Poetry in the Cubist Zone: Labwork for Picassoheads


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Woman Sitting in Armchair (1939)

There has been much in the news recently about the great master painter Pablo PicassoMusée Picasso Paris today announced that its October 25th reopening will celebrate new work donated by his eldest daughter Maya Widmaier Picasso (78) along with the 133th anniversary of the artist’s death.

According to The Guardian article, the donation consists of a drawing of a woman’s face from his Cubist period and a notebook containing nude studies done in 1960.

Interesting to note, that the drawing’s reverse features the bottom half of a partial sketch of the Picasso-smitten, French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. The top half of which is already in the museum’s collection.  With some 5,000 of Picasso’s works on hand, including over 300 paintings, only a small fraction can be displaPablo-Picasso-Creativityyed at any one time.  How lovely to have even a taste, and what fun it would be to sneak into those storage alcoves!

This past month, we also learned that the painter’s “The Blue Room” hides a mystery man (in a bow-tie no less) behind the surface painting. Look out Doctor Who #11. You may have a rival.

This was, of course, on the heels of last year’s scandal when Picasso’s stepdaughter accused her handyman of stealing over 400 of the artist’s sketches and watercolors.  While a few months prior to this astonishing news, an Ohio man stumbled upon the find of a lifetime, snatching up a rare print (worth a tidy sum) for less than $20 at a thrift store.

So it seems, that the celebrated artist’s face has been popping up everywhere. Even here on this blog!!  Back in the spring, I wrote a piece on Literary Rub-offs that introduced you to the Picasso/Gertrude Stein connection.  That particular association fascinates me to no end, and other poets seem a bit stuck on the Cubist painter as well.

Here are just a handful of poems inspired by his groundbreaking artwork:

If I Were Told, A Completed Potrait of Picasso by Gertrude Stein (with audio)

Picasso XXIII by e.e. cummings

The Old Guitarist

The Old Guitarist

The Chicago Picasso by Gwendolyn Brooks

excerpts from The Man With the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens

Solsequiem (after Pablo Picasso’s Maternidad, 1905) by Marjorie Evasco

Pablo Picasso from Seven Poems by Shuzo Takiguchi (translated by Yuki Tanaka &Mary Jo Bang)

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Stephen Gibson

Picasso at the Bus Stop by Kayla Cagan (for National Poetry Month ’14)


And if your looking for a whole collection that sprung from Picasso-watered earth,: Captain Lavender by Medbh McGuckian is for you.

You might also like to explore some of Picasso’s (Own) Poetry with Mary Ann Caws or try your hand at some of the FUN art activities at Jimmie’s Squidoo.

===>Once you have thoroughly immersed yourself in the Cubist zone, your assignment is to write your own Picasso-inspired poem on the back of one of these nifty coloring pages.  A small gallery below for color reference and inspiration:






2sDay Poems: Mouthfeel in the Borderlands


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index This week we look at poets with work out from Mouthfeel Press, a relatively new, bilingual, small press run out of El Paso,TX. Its primary mission is to publish poets from the TX-NM-AZ-CA region.Mouthfeel banner

But beyond that the “borderlands”, which founder Maria Miranda Maloney describes (in an interview with Katie Hoerth) as

not necessarily a geography or a specific place…that would narrow its definition too much.  A more liberal definition would be a point or space of rupture from pre-determined and predictable roles and circumstances, a point of deconstruction, and a space that Emma Pérez references in her book, The Decolonial Imaginary, as going ‘into the margins, to argue or expose that which no one will risk.’ MFP’s mission [then] recognizes this space and embraces this rupture through poetry.”


ElizaGOur first poem is from Eliza A. Garza, who besides her poetry is also known in family education circles for her Tercets blog.

Mucho Cuidado

Father is leaving for work. Mother is home
because of the new baby. I watch him
on the couch while she irons shirt after shirt.
Hanger in her mouth like a giant fish hook,
she buttons them up, one by one. Father kisses her
on the cheek after looking at the baby
and Mother says, mucho cuidado. 341_500_csupload_39899147

This was my daily lesson on affection,
back when my parents still loved each other.
Today, a man I barely know said this to me,
mucho cuidado, and affection pricked my heart,
his good-bye probing sharp and hot.

From the car, I wave…


Purchase Entre la claridad here

Also available by Eliza is Familia.




Next up is the prolific Amalio Madueno with an excerpt from a collection put out by Wild Embers Press. Spider Road is his latest from Mouthfeel.

from Part One of Lost in the Chamiso

His mother was a green bouquet of kelp. She bore him over a period of three days down by the shipyard. The harbor was a flotsammed, jagged place for an alien kid to play. He ignored the many just like him trying to find a way to shallows, sandbars, and shoals. On the silver strand, he noticed how the shorebirds skimmed for succulent tips and spears as they cruised the crashing waves, the spreading spume and foam.

God is a kilo of steaming tortillas that does nothing
but make a sphere of aroma .
I’ve studied the ancestry of corn, sought out the madre
de maiz, chewed the juice of teosinte.
It is on no page in any tome,
finds no place on any page
Given this reality the princessas, the jovenitas,
the viejitas churning out,
Patting out, cranking tortillas forever lookindex
very important, very serious.
No Ave Marias prayed to heaven solve the mystery,
Save me from tilling rows,
Hauling water, squashing the worms, spraying
the fungus, driving the dusty
Afternoons of August wildly to the horizon.

Winters I’ve often thought of sacrificing to the goddess,
But could not hold the thought of her pure being long enough.
Forever young, fertile girl with silky hair.
Se’s there. The corn & I follow her commands . . .
I will go as far as I can believing these things.

I unfold the wrapping and think:
I’ve eaten more tortillas than anyone I know
Hot cold rolled flat fried steamed flamed burnt181_258_csupload_48353293
Plain or with butter balony salami tuna
peanut butter salsa guacamole
Walking out of the tortillaria in Tijuana
Put your nose to the wrapping paper
Forget the corn shortage, the field…


Purchase Lost in the Chamiso.
Purchase Spider Road.


Pielicious POETRY LAB & ‘Milking Your Food’ Mini-Contest


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A Piece of the Pie--C.A. LaRue

“A Piece of the Pie” Collage by C.A. LaRue


The image above is a pared-down version of a collage that I created for a “Women and Food” issue for a UK magazine.  Women, especially it seems, have a complicated relationship with food. Much of our self-image is inextricably tied to it, and beyond that, our concepts of family and home.

Recently, I was moved by New Orleans “native,” Kim Sunee‘s writing on the subject.  Both her diary/cookbook Mouthful of Stars and Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home  bring up much deeper issues of identity and love. In Mouthful (channeling that other great food writer M.F.K. Fisher), she says

So, in many ways, food is never just about food, is it? Lunch is never just lunch. And supper is more than the sum of its parts.  And so, as we travel and cook and share the gifts of the table, we are also wondering, imagining, answering and asking questions of ourselves and of one another.

Regardless of gender, this week I would like you to take a closer look at your own attitudes towards and issues with food and to respond in the form of a poem. This poem can be tied to the collage above or go off in its own foodist direction. Go with your instincts here.

Either way, those who submit poems (no more than two via the comments section of this post) will have a chance at a space in the virtual arm of the JAMBALAYA POETS WORKSHOP starting September 17 and running through April 22.

Participants in the group will meet two Wednesdays per month (with the exception of December), and along with its virtual arm, will discuss contemporary poetry and work through much of the exercises in Diane Lockward’s fantabulous The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop In addition to these exercises, there will be some light journaling and podcasting opportunities.

Diane has graciously agreed to make herself available at some point during the workshop with details to be provided at a later date. We are also awaiting word from a local sponsor for help with the purchase of materials for those participating from the local community.

Details of the virtual “hookup” will be provided by the local community college prior to the September meeting.  Both local and virtual participants will have access to forums and email exchange, and there is a big surprise on for the wrap-up in April (National Poetry Month).

As for the “Milking Your Food” Mini-Contest, those looking for inspiration beyond the photo prompt above should consult the poetry sections of the journals listed in Becky Tuch’s article Yummy! Lit Mags Seeking Food& Drink Writing and/or the Food Memoir list at The Literary Foodie website.

And as always, poets with collections or chapbooks who would like some free exposure should submit details to for possible inclusion in the next 2sDay Poems feature.

Ok, people, don’t just sit there staring at my pie, get on with the writing already!!! You are going to want a spot in this group.







Making the Case for “Modern” Native American Memoir with Recommended Reading List


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–from the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Ours has been called “the age of memoir,” and particularly in America, the genre has been labeled “the central (literary) form of our time.” But at the same time that the publication of personal narratives has soared, critics and some readers have chastised its writers for being voyeuristic, self-indulgent or worse. Then there is the dreaded ‘nostalgic’ label, which still has at center stage, the author’s bright and shining face.

Native American or American Indian (NDN) cultures, on the other hand, value community over the individual and are deeply rooted in both the land and in a contiguous past and present. Readers who have soured on “standard” American memoir, might find storytellers from Indian Country’s broader landscapes a refreshing change.

If you want to dive into the sub-genre, I suggest that you start with N. Scott Momaday‘s The Names and then work your way through the following list according to interest:4186SXQ737L._SL110_





1.  The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir by Leslie Marmon Silko





2.  Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo





3.  Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah A. Miranda






4.  Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country: Traveling Through the Land of My Ancestors by Louise Erdrich




5.  The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich






6.  The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir by Linda Hogan




7.  Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter by Janet Campbell Hale





8.  Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival (American Indian Lives) by Allison Hedge Coke





9.  Muscogee Daughter: My Sojourn to the Miss America Pageant (American Indian Lives) by Susan Supernaw






10.  Take This Man: A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse*




11.  Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir (Sun Tracks) by Ernestine Hayes





12.  Maria Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief





13.  Choctalking on Other Realities by LeAnne Howe





14.  Talking Indian: Reflections on Survival and Writing by Anna Lee Walters





15.  Skeleton of a Bridge by Robert Mirabal










17.  Rez Life by David Treuer





18.  Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog





19.  Spirit Car: A Journey to a Dakota Past by Diane Wilson



To purchase all titles together or to view updates to the list CLICK through to LISTMANIA!

2sDay Poems: International Poets Tackle Windows


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This week our first poem is from the controversial film director and Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad.



A window to lookForugh_Farrokhzad1
A window to listen
A window that reaches the heart of the earth
like the loop of a well at its very end
and opens towards the expanse of
this constant blue benevolence.
A window that fills the little hands of loneliness
with the nocturnal bounty of generous stars,
and it is from there that one can invite the sun
to the nostalgia of candelabra flowers.
One window is enough for me.

I come from the land of dolls,9781557288615_p0_v1_s260x420

From beneath the shade of paper trees
in the garden of an illustrated book,
From the arid chapters of barren experiences
of friendship and love
in the earthy lanes of innocence,
From the blooming years of anemic alphabet letters
on the benches of a tubercular school,
From the moment that children
could write the word of ‘stone’ on the blackboard
and the starlings fluttered away from the elderly tree.
I come from within the roots of carnivorous plants,
and my brain is still brimmed over
with the fearful calls of a butterfly…


SIN: SELECTED POEMS OF FOROUGH FARROKHZAD is from the Univ. of Arkansas Press.


Next up is American-born Karina Borowicz, who is known for her own poems as well as her translations from Russian and French.Karina Borowicz


The Maintenance of Public Order

The men are always pounding on things. It’s impossible to escape the obsessive whack and thump. Long past midnight a knot of men will perch on the neighboring tin roof and beat it with heavy sticks. They smoke without touching their cigarettes; the smoke invades my room and is backed into a corner by moonlight’s fist. In the morning my eyes are rimmed with salt and my body is bruised, having been batted between one stick and another all night long. Then the men slide off the roof like dirty snow, hoist the long sticks across the backs of their shoulders and hold them in place with both wrists, their smoked sausage hands dangling. At the first kiosk they stumble upon they’ll buy a couple more bottles.

The women-folk walk around. They measure their steps to the beat of the men’s sticks. In summer you can hear…9781934851418_p0_v1_s260x420


Her latest collection THE BEES ARE WAITING is from Marick Press.


**To have your collection or artwork featured, please email for more details.

Sunday Sentence #7


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21004709Another contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week, “out of context and without commentary.”

Life is full of situations where it is easy to feel creatively trapped.

SOURCE:Dory Kanter‘s non-fiction book Art Escapes.


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