Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tinfish 16 / trout 13

Newly released: a collaborative issue of Tinfish with trout, an on-line journal out of Honolulu and New Zealand, edited by Robert Sullivan, Anne Kennedy, Tony Murrow, and Brian Flaherty ( Both journals specialize in Pacific poetries; some of the authors have appeared in both publications, but most are new to one or the other.

This issue features work by Hinemoana Baker, Cherie Barford, Linh Dinh, Murray Edmond, Kari Edwards, David Eggleton, Glenn Mott, Eileen Myles, Kit Robinson, Hazel Smith, Juliana Spahr, Richard von Sturmer, and Mark Wallace, as well a review of John Kinsella by John Rieder. And much more! Wonderful translations from the Chinese of Huang CanRan, Shang Qin and others. Each cover of the Tinfish paper version is unique, a slipcover map. Centerfold by Thomas Wasson, designer of the roofing paper cover issue.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


"Founded in the United States of America in June of 2005, is a non-profit Internet-based site created to share poems by Asian poets from the U.S. as well as from all around the world. Our mission is to encourage and strengthen Asian poets to share their poetic works or art and have their brilliant gifts discovered." -

"One does not need to be the greatest of poets andwriters to be in the "spotlight." Anyone who strives to be the best they can be as a writer and poet will be recognized and acknowledged." -Mor X. Chang,

There are many things to like about First, it accepts submissions not only from Asians and Asian-Americans but from individuals of all races and ethnicities. Second and related, its policy of open submissions maximizes inclusivity by not imposing a fixed idea of what "Asian-American poetry" is, thus leaving this important question open. Third, it has attracted a diverse array of poets from different ethnicities, particularly southeast and south Asian-American poets. Fourth, it does not arrange poets or poems into any kind of artificial hierarchy.

But perhaps most importantly, provides a great online repository for poems being written today by various Asian-American and non Asian-American poets. I think of it as "primary source material," as I learned the term in elementary school, in the sense that it contains useful documents from the original sources, i.e., the poets, unfiltered by a secondary source.

For me, there is a certain innocence to the site, because it recaptures the egalitarian ideal -- imagined though perhaps never really existing -- that there is a place for everyone's poems (an egalitarian ideal that remains strong in poetry but is captured maliciously by "vanity" publishers that make people pay exorbitant prices for their anthologies). In essence, works at least partly by filling a void left by the commodification of poetry, which has its own set of positive uses but does largely exclude poets who do not want to go through the traditional submission/publication process. The brilliance of resides in its fostering of an inclusive community.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part IX

Dark strawberries tasted moist to Kudos. He lingered upon each syllable of strawberry, but who could forget a satellite dish? It served as an oval hammock.

Kudos was elbows of cool, and I recalled the only trampoline that ever knew me well. Its looseness prevented me from reaching too high. That was me with the essential glasses, front row, near the center of the photograph with the other short kids.

Meditative playground, come back to me as if you wanted everyone upon you. Kudos pretended not to notice a tangerine butterfly. In the form of a sandwich, a family member can talk your voice back into your mouth. Fear can make the voice of another your own. Kudos, soon enough, you will leave the security of pancakes again.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part VIII

In the kitchen, Aunt Wei-Wei poured several tablespoons of water into the pot to make the sweet rice creamier. "So you found him," she asked and answered.

"Sometimes you are the seventy-eight year old great aunt of a young man who discovers a starving poet on the roof of a bed-and-breakfast, and that is the way life works. Even before your pre-breakfast manicure, the day has already begun."

My great-aunt and I had been talking about professional tennis rankings last night, and I wanted to change the subject to the immigration debates in Congress instead of Kudos, but she crossed the conversation-change finish line first. Still, I thought, if one imagined our chat thus far as the first leg of a triathalon...

"We are a nation of immigrants," I replied, "I don't understand the anti-immigrant rhetoric. It's always about interest groups."

"Kudos is not an immigrant. He is a poet. He is always at home. Don't you know that poets are always at home," Wei-Wei asked and answered, while layering a piece of toast with lemon caramel margarine.

"At any rate, I think that it's doubtful that either the Democrats or the Republicans have enough votes to get any bill out of the Senate this term," I replied.

"Kudos has been living on the roof for the past nine months. But the neighbors haven't noticed. Maybe if he wrote fiction. Nobody notices poets," Wei-Wei asked and answered.

"Still, I wonder if any senator would fillibuster if a proposal looked like it would pass," I replied.

"Many of the poems that Kudos has written are almost publishable. None of that racial/ethnic identity stuff about food. That won't get you a third look these days with hardly any editors. But I like flarf. I think that he should start a blog," Wei-Wei asked and answered.

Aunt Wei-Wei handed me a porcelain plate with two pieces of half-burnt toast, an ice cream scoopful of rice, and two slices of Canadian bacon.

"I'll take it up to Kudos," I sighed. "Is there anything you want me to tell Kudos?"

"Yes," she replied. "Tell him amnesty is unlikely. Politics can be tough in an election year."

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part VII

Kudos used to play the guitar. He loved to play the guitar, because it made him feel good. He became good at playing the guitar, and he dreamt of writing songs. He wrote songs, some of which were good, some of which made his guitar sing beautifully. He felt moon upon moon of beauty whenever his guitar would sing at night. He was an incarnate guitar that inhabited the musicality of life.

"But that was when I was a boy," Kudos sighed. After leaving his family, Kudos spiraled downward. He sold his guitar for a week's worth of coffee, scrambled eggs, and cinnamon rolls. He lived in a homeless shelter, while he worked at a supermarket. He worked double-shifts as a bag boy at first, then gradually moved up the supermarket hierarchy. He became manager of the local branch after five years. He could not take it anymore after six years.

Yes, Kudos, I am listening to your ballad. I am realizing that guitars are not of this community. Endangered species, the whole band of musical instruments. Fewer and fewer guitars live in the wild. The turbulence of shopping malls frightens them, and I can only spot the stragglers through the use of powerful binoculars. Surviving guitars seldom know melodies nowadays, because we are losing the best of tradition.

"As a child, I was afraid of many things. As a child, I thought that you would no longer become afraid once you reached adulthood. I thought adults had no fears," Kudos the Adult slowly recollected. "As an adult, I know that I was mistaken. Adults have the weight of childhood and adulthood to bear. Adults have seasons upon seasons of scars that have sealed emotions into solemn cubicles of silence. Adults are conscious of loneliness but often lack the imagination of children to escape it. There are fears upon fears, and you do not want to go it alone, but sometimes...sometimes, it happens that you end up in a supermarket at midnight with no one to love you back."

Yes, Kudos, I am afraid as well. Play the guitar for me again, please.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part VI

Kudos had the sense of a humor of a pie chart. With no raisins, with no orange slices, he could fashion a dotted grin on either snowman or potato. He could do prison guard imitations with waffle fries. In a fable without dragons, he could slap triangles on a salamander. He was masculine.

I would have wanted Kudos to perform in my elementary school theatrical on the perils of bad dental hygiene. My teacher only let the tallest boy play the part of the toothbrush, but let us not get that far into the voting rights debate. If Kudos could have done slapstick as dentures, I would have been mouthwash. No one can defeat bad breath without a palindrome.

Seven o’clock. Kudos told me that he no longer understood the concept of chewing gum, but it mattered little to him. Funny Kudos, alone on the roof. Poor, funny Kudos.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part V

"I wanted to live in a town where everyone would misspell my name," Kudos sighed. "When you are a teenager, you believe in your indestructibility. Only much later do you learn that you are right. The confirmation comes via airmail, transposing an equinox with drums."

Kudos meant his poetry. "Did you think that anyone could destroy my poetry by firewood, scalding each stanza into ash? Did you think that it hurt me to leave my family? No, it cleansed me. My facelessness cleansed me, and I was so much the stronger for the anonymity. I was so much –"

Kudos broke off and wept, but he failed to realize that I could not deal with adults crying. (That weakness of mine existed "back then" but so recently that I can still taste everyone I had lost – and was losing.) Why was he crying? I used to crave blueberry pancakes whenever anyone wept. I asked Kudos for maple syrup but settled for a hard boiled egg and salad dressing.

"Commerce is humorous," Kudos gasped. "Just when you have purchased a glass dodecahedron, you realize that you no longer need the purity of refracted sunbeams. Then you take it home with you, and you realize that you do need it. Have you ever met the man who invented the windowsill? When you live outdoors, you tend to forget the language of windows."

It had been seven years since Kudos lived indoors. "No one can make a living off poetry," he declared. I smiled while imagining that it must have been the quality of the poetry. It would have been utterly fantastic to envision a society in which poets could not survive off their poems. A low tolerance for myth makes the globe spin faster.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part IV

When Kudos hoisted me upon his shoulders, I became the fireworks I never forgave. Picnic music swarmed a malted radio. Balloons played plantains with flags. A mattress saleswoman closed shop. With each gaze that the stars cared to throw, a teardrop slipped across the face of a man, arc upon arc, his face upon the grass.

"Comprehend," Kudos proposed, "that everyone you have ever loved could be tender back to you. That you could share with them everything. Everything." Kudos set me back down on the roof and looked away. "No one is like that, you see."

On the state fairgrounds, you can be seven years old, and no one will blame you for it. You can have hot dogs and popcorn. You can have baseball. You can have parents. No one will blame you for it.

In three hours, the first rooster of a week that can begin on any day will crow. Five dozen average fortune cookies will burst open in fury, and their slips will scatter over the welcome mat of Wei-Wei’s bed-and-breakfast. A ticker-tape parade. Kudos wanted to know why I left the carnival that night and whether I would leave the rooftop.

"Yes," I replied. "I have learned to leave. Everyone I have ever loved, I have learned to leave." With that assertion, I opened a jar of fortune cookies to release two robins. Darling and confused, they reached the cherry tree unharmed. They fell in love with each other, and it was entirely believable.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Adventures of Kudos the Poet - Part III

Reckless Kudos was no heavyweight. "You do not have to know the beginning of my life," he warned, "to feel for the middle. Sentimental buckaroo, rejoice!"

If objects could be people, I think wool jackets are like Kudos. He meant to call me kid, though he barely understood that cauliflower and confetti no longer made me young. I meant topiaries. It would have been his pity that made me pitiful.

At the age of eighteen, Kudos escaped his home for Wyoming and a mug of coffee. Like every American, he travelled eastward in complete sentences. He vanquished fried bacon with civility. The lassos came without accolades. He traveled very publicly with a gothic marching band on a bus to Jefferson City.

When Kudos told the lead goth-saxophonist that he wrote poems, she looked at him like he was eighteen. "Only children write poems," she intoned. "After poetry, we become who we are meant to be."

Dear Kudos. As if anyone could escape from family. You are born into who you are meant to be, and you have divulged a life after poetry. Now you say you have changed. Now you want to go back. Dear Kudos, I can empathize.