Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kundiman - Letter from Executive Director Sarah Gambito

As you (may) know, Kundiman is playing an important role in the literary world of the U.S. By initiating a summer retreat for Asian American poets five years ago, it has opened doors of opportunity that were previously closed to young poets of the Asian diaspora. Through intensive workshopswith renowned poets and the enthusiastic support from staff and peers, the amount and excellence of their output is phenomenal.

Kundiman Fellows have published poems in The Virginia Quarterly Review,The Colorado Review, Pleiades, Black Warrior Review and Crab Orchard Review. They are attending MFA and doctoral programs at The Iowa Writers' Workshop, New York University, Stanford University, The University of Houston, and The University of California, Berkeley. Three Kundiman fellows have gone on to publish full-length collections of poetry.

What you may not know is how important this program has been in the development of lives of the poets themselves. I'd like to share quotes from just two of the Fellows and I invite you to read the testimonies of others on our website Also, please see Janine Oshiro's essay on her experience at the Kundiman retreat here:

Months after this year's Kundiman retreat, I am still left wondering whether the most intensely beautiful experience, short of falling in love, was an accidental happenstance of a meeting of more than 20 poet-minds atvarious stages of our writing development; or the intricate design of the driven and artful, purposeful and generous, tactical and loving staff, guest faculty and board of Kundiman. The camaraderie, peer review, professional insight and instruction, mutual support, lack of sleep and utter kindness and friendship fired up the most remote synapses of mybrain and my deepest heartstrings. But why qualify the impact of Kundiman? I did fall in love with my fellow poets, their exquisite analyses of my work and each of their unique poetic voices. I'm both humbled and proud to be a small part of this growing family of writers whoeven today, are shaping the poetry of tomorrow.--Debbie Yee

As soon as I arrived, I was greeted so warmly as if I was among old friends! I felt at home among complete strangers. Here was a group of dynamic people who shared both my struggles being a writer of color inAmerica and my passions: a deep devotion to the art of poetry. I've always heard, read, and spoken about the importance of community in anyartistic endeavor. The poet's road can be a lonely one; the drifting heart needs its anchors. But I never realized how empowering a community of artists could be until I spent four days at UVA with the Kundimanstaff, teachers, and fellows. I found there what I failed to in any other poetry workshop I've taken: a deep respect and honor among poets; a desire to talk about race, identity, and history, in conjunction with one's composition process; and a willingness to be brave. --Brynn Saito

We are turning to you to ask for your help in insuring that the 6th Kundiman Summer Retreat can take place, to replace funds that we received in the past but that are not available this year because of budget cuts. The $4,000 we need will go toward direct costs of the retreat's faculty and staff travel and faculty honoraria. Again this year, Kundiman staff members will donate their time to coordinate and administer all the stages required to carry out the five day session.

What we ask, we ask for the program itself and for the brave and gifted poets it serves.Poet by poet, Kundiman is helping to change the face of American literature and what it means to document an important part of the American story. We need the certain light of poetry all the more in these uncertain times. With your help, we will continue to light the way for the next generation of Asian American writers.

Please click here to donate: Please, also, do forward this widely.

Sarah Gambito

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Bamboo Ridge Press

As anyone who has run a small to mid-sized publishing press will tell you, it is not the easiest endeavor. The successful ones are real labors of love. One of the most successful publishing presses in the field of Asian-American poetry is Bamboo Ridge Press, which was founded in 1978 and focuses on literature by and about the people of Hawaii.

I particularly like Bamboo Ridge Press's website. Like the most ambitious websites, this one is multifaceted, containing useful features such as an online bookstore, upcoming literary events in Hawaii, blogs by Bambook Ridge Press staff and site members, podcasts, videos, a photo gallery and news about the press itself. In my humble opinion, it is definitely worth checking out!