Saturday, January 27, 2007

Reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Tina Chang (Half-Lit Houses), Srikanth Reddy (Facts for Visitors), Victoria Chang (Circle, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation) will be reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC on January 29th. The event will be introduced and moderated by Joseph Legaspi of Kundiman. Please see for details.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

2007 Asian American Kundiman Poetry Retreat at the University of Virginia

The University of Virginia, Charlottesville
June 20 – 24, 2007

In order to help mentor the next generation of Asian-American poets, Kundiman is sponsoring an annual Poetry Retreat at The University of Virginia. During the Retreat, nationally renowned Asian American poets will conduct workshops and provide one-on-one mentorship sessions with participants. Readings and informal social gatherings will also be scheduled. Through this Retreat, Kundiman hopes to provide a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian American poets. This 5-day Retreat will take place from Wednesday to Sunday. Workshops will be conducted fromThursday to Saturday. Workshops will not exceed six students.


Myung Mi Kim’s books of poems include Commons (University of California Press), DURA (Sun & Moon), The Bounty (Chax Press), and Under Flag, winner of the Multicultural Publisher’s Exchange Award (Kelsey St. Press). Anthology appearances in Asian-American Literature: An Anthology, Moving Borders: Three Decades of Innovative Writing by Women, Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry and other collections. Honors include a residency at Djerassi Resident Artists Program and awards from The Fund for Poetry. She is Professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo.

Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer having won top prizes in the 1993, 1994 and 1997 National Poetry Slams. His work appears in over 30 anthologies including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken WordRevolution and Slam. He has appeared on two seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, PBS’ “In The Life” and MTV’s “Free Your Mind” Spoken Word Tour. Regie is the recipient of the 10th annual Writers for Writers Award sponsored by Poets & Writers and has received three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships for Poetry and Multi-Disciplinary Performance.

Prageeta Sharma is the author of Bliss to Fill (subpress books, 2000) and The Opening Question (Fence Books, 2004). Her work has also appeared in Agni, Art Asia Pacific, Boston Review, Combo, Fence, Indiana Review, Women’s Review of Books and other periodicals. She received her MFA in poetry from Brown University and an MA in Media Studies from The New School.


To keep the cost of the retreat low for all participants, fees are not charged for workshops or programming. Thus, all accepted applicants are given an automatic tuition scholarship. Room and Board for the entire retreat is $300.

Application Process

Send five to seven (5-7) paginated, stapled pages of poetry, with your name included on each page. Include a cover letter with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address and a brief paragraph describing what you would like to accomplish at the Kundiman Asian American Poets’ Retreat. Include a SAS postcard if you want an application receipt.

Manuscripts will not be returned. No electronic submissions, please.

Mail application to: Kundiman 245 Eighth Avenue #151 New York, NY 10011.

Submissions must be postmarked by March 1, 2007.

For more info, please visit:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Two Poems by Jake Ricafrente

Before the most recent issue of MiPOesias, I don't think I quite appreciated the concept of "discovering" "undiscovered" talent in poetry, which many poetry editors have expressed as one of the most enjoyable aspects of choosing poems for publication. It wasn't that I thought that these editors were paying lip-service to the idea. I imagine that such "discoveries" must happen. All poets have to start somewhere, and there are many different kinds of beginnings, from a first publication in a literary journal to a first award/prize received to a first collection of poems.

But pretty much all the poets whose poems I have come across in literary journals, anthologies, or books were poets who had already had numerous publication credits before, if not one or a few collections of poems published. It is seldom that I read the poetry of a fairly new poet and come away feeling very confident that this poet will someday be published in many literary magazines, have an excellent first collection of poetry with a major publisher, and receive many accolades from various organizations and publications.

I had exactly such a feeling, however, upon reading the two poems of Jake Ricafrente published in the Asian-American issue of MiPOesias. While I'm familiar with the poetry of most of the poets in this issue, the Asian-American poetry world not being unimaginably large, I had never come across any of Ricafrente's work before. Now I think that there are many great poems in this issue, but I feel that Ricafrente's two poems achieve an unmistakable quality of transcendence, like the best poems of Adrienne Su -- and I chose to mention Su here, because Ricafrente's "White Plastics" reminds me of Su's "Savannah Crabs."

Reading the first poem, "Concerning Glass," I perceive it as the more ambitious of the two poems, even though the latter is more technically accomplished. Consisting of four stanzas, the poem successfully takes on the difficult task of drawing out the different facets of a single word (glass, in this case) through an entire poem, while at the same time it is also an "Asian/Asian-American poem" in the sense that it makes oblique references to the Asian race/ethnicity/nationality of the speaker in various stanzas.

More specifically, I think that the second stanza is the poem's strongest, because it so deftly transitions from a broken glass to the speaker's "father's dog" to the "crass vet" to the speaker's "last good teacher" to a detailed description of the teacher's eye and the speaker's reaction to it. These shifts, akin to shifts in memory, are done through original turns of phrase and sharply detailed descriptions. Throughout the poem, there are many brilliant lines. I would say, however, that I think the first stanza should have started with the third line, as "Light's the thing that," instead of with references to bending light. Perhaps the sight of light bending through glass inspired the first draft of the poem, but the opening two lines distracted me a bit by self-consciously pointing to the notion that many other poems contain references to "bending light" and drawing attention to it as a cliche. My favorite lines in the poem are the final eight lines or so in the last stanza, which flow naturally from the rest of the poem, are well-earned, and make me think of the best work of Davis McCombs and Marilyn Chin.

I really like the second poem, "White Plastics," as well. It does two separate things together perhaps as well as I've come across in any poem -- it shows great skill in the use of classical forms, while at the same time, it is also a fascinating meditation on racial identity. First, I found the poem very techncially accomplished. It is written in blank verse, composed of rhyming couplets, and appears to be a kind of variation on the sonnet, though it contains eighteen lines. Second, the speaker of the poem seems to be someone of mixed race, and the poem basically deals with the experiences of the speaker upon encountering himself as "the other" by some members of his family.

Here is my reading of the narrative of the poem. Everything is superficially idyllic, but the speaker is aware of this superficiality. The speaker suddenly becomes aware of himself as a "half-breed, some percent/ of full." There is a festive dinner in Poughkeepsie, perhaps Thanksgiving dinner, with the "white" side of his family. The food is great and the speaker is enjoying himself, but the "white" members of his family "gather round to scout" him and his brown skin as if he were a foreigner. The speaker feels "other-ed" by this experience and presents the profound question of whether it is better to assimilate or to take pride in one's racial/ethnic heritage in a multicultural American society. To a certain extent, the speaker cannot fully answer this question on his own -- and by extension, none of us can fully answer this question on our own -- because our experiences as individuals are formed and mediated by our histories and communities. The "Pilgrims" are an essential part of the speaker's language of history, just as the aunts who may perceive him at least partly on the basis of his skin color are a part of his family. There are hugs, and there is some measure of acceptance, even though this acceptance is one that must be negotiated.

At any rate, that was my reading of "White Plastics." I thought that both of Jake Ricafrente's poems were quite successful, filled with heart and wit and effectively balancing narrative and lyricism, and I look forward to reading more of his poetry in the future.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

MiPOesias Magazine 2007 - Asian-American Issue

The Asian-American issue of MiPOesias Magazine has just come out, officially commencing what I think will be an exciting year in Asian-American poetry. Edited by Nick Carbo, it marks the first collection of Asian-American poets since the publication of Asian-American Poetry: The Next Generation (University of Illinois Press, 2004, ed. Victoria Chang) and, by the end of the year, we should see the publication of Contemporary Voices from the East: An Anthology of Poems (W.W. Norton, 2007, eds. Tina Chang, Ravi Shankar, and Nathalie Handal) as well.

This issue also represents the continuing efforts of MiPOesias, run by publisher Didi Menendez, to feature the work of a racially, ethnically, and geographically diverse range of poets with aesthetically diverse styles of writing. In my admittedly biased opinion, MiPOesias represents the best of independent poetry publishing. Through the dedication of Didi Menendez, Amy King, Jenni Russell, and many guest editors, poets, and readers, it has remained open to an incredibly broad range of contemporary poets and become increasingly successful over the past seven years. I'm highlighting this point, because it is never easy to run a great poetry publication, and I think that the people "behind the scenes," so to speak, seldom get sufficient recognition and credit, which they deserve, because they play such an important role in shaping the present and future of poetry.