Asian American Poetry Roundup 2016

Because of the nature of small presses, it’s possible that we missed some great books that came out this year. If so, let us know in the comments. When possible we tried to include the publisher’s synopsis of the book, however some publishers did not provide one. In the meantime, here is a selection of Asian American poetry books and chapbooks that got on our radar this year, in no particular order:

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OVERPOUR is Jane Wong’s powerful first book. It “weaves together seemingly disparate topics such as war and child’s play, language and exile, debt, animals and nature. By doing so, Wong creates a space between—for the reader to enter. At the same time, by creating this space, she makes a space for possibility.” Jane Wong holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a former U.S. Fulbright Fellow and Kundiman Fellow. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley, and the Fine Arts Work Center. The recipient of The American Poetry Review’s 2016 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize, poems have appeared in journals such as Pleiades, The Volta, Third Coast, and the anthologies Best American Poetry 2015 (Scribner), Best New Poets 2012 (The University of Virginia Press) and The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press). Her chapbooks include: Dendrochronology (dancing girl press), Kudzu Does Not Stop (Organic Weapon Arts), and Impossible Map (Fact-Simile). She is the author of OVERPOUR (Action Books, 2016). Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pacific Lutheran University.

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100 Chinese Silences by Timothy Yu. Selected as “the editor’s selection in the 2014 NOS Book Contest. There are one hundred kinds of Chinese silence: the silence of unknown grandfathers; the silence of borrowed Buddha and rebranded Confucius; the silence of alluring stereotypes and exotic reticence. These poems make those silences heard. Writing back to an orientalist tradition that has defined modern American poetry, these 100 Chinese silences unmask the imagined Asias of American literature, revealing the spectral Asian presence that haunts our most eloquent lyrics and self- satisfied wisdom. Rewriting poets from Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore to Gary Snyder and Billy Collins, this book is a sharply critical and wickedly humorous travesty of the modern canon, excavating the Asian (American) bones buried in our poetic language.” Timothy Yu is the author of three chapbooks of poetry: 15 Chinese Silences (Tinfish, 2009), Journey to the West (Barrow Street, 2006, winner of the Vincent Chin Chapbook Prize from Kundiman) and, with Kristy Odelius, Kiss the Stranger. He is also the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford University Press), which won the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies. His work has appeared in Poetry, Cordite Poetry Review, SHAMPOO, Mantis, Lantern Review, and Kartika Review. He is associate professor of English and Asian American studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Poor Anima
by Khaty Xiong. Khaty Xiong is a second-generation Hmong-American from Fresno, CA. Born to Hmong refugees from Laos, she is the seventh daughter among her 15 brothers and sisters. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Montana, and is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Deer Hour (New Michigan Press, 2014) and Elegies (University of Montana, 2013), which was the winning manuscript for the university’s annual Merriam-Frontier Award. POOR ANIMA is her first full-length collection. Currently, she resides in Dublin, OH.

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microchips for millions by Janice Lobo Sapigao.  microchips for millions is Janice Lobo Sapigao’s first poetry book. It is “a documentary and exploratory poetry collection about the exploitation of immigrant women in the Silicon Valley and those who built it all – those like the author’s mother. Through the use of binary code, the Filipino language, Ilokano; personal observation, and scholarship, microchips for millions draws out the social layers of the microchip, which are central to the global economy. The book interrogates Silicon Valley as an ideal place of innovation, technological advancement, and a highly populated concentration of computer-based startups. What is not popularly known is that the Silicon Valley is also home to flagrant and covert injustice where toxic chemicals and “clean” energy risk the lives of workers.” Janice Lobo Sapigao is a writer, poet, and educator.  She is the Associate Editor of TAYO Literary Magazine, and a co-founder of Sunday Jump, an open mic in Los Angeles’s Historic Filipinotown. She earned her M.F.A. in Writing from CalArts and has a B.A. in Ethnic Studies with Honors from UC San Diego. She currently lives in San José, CA.

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Year Zero
by Monica Sok. Monica Sok is a Cambodian poet from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the chapbook “Year Zero,” winner of the 2015 PSA Chapbook Fellowship 30 and Under, selected by Marilyn Chin. A Kundiman fellow, Sok has received scholarships from Squaw Valley, Napa Valley, and Bread Loaf writers’ conferences. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The New Republic, Narrative, and Ninth Letter, among others. She holds a MFA degree from NYU, and lives in Brooklyn.

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Imaginary Vessels by Paisley Rekdal. Her fifth book of poetry “employs multitudinous voices – or vessels – real and imagined. They range from anonymous skulls unearthed from the grounds of a state mental institution to cultural icons trapped in narrowly defined roles.” Paisley Rekdal is the author of four books of poetry, a book of personal essays, and a mixed media book of photography, poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She lives in Salt Lake City and teaches at the University of Utah.

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Leviathan
by Neil Aitken. This chapbook “follows the extraordinary life and losses of Charles Babbage (1791-1871), a nineteenth-century mathematician who dreamed of building what would have been the first Turing-complete computer. In his near-impossible quest which dominated most of his life, we find a resonance with our yearnings to express whatever lies just beyond the grasp of language and explanation.” Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), which won the Philip Levine Prize, and Babbage’s Dream (Sundress 2017), as well as a chapbook of poetry, Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press 2016). He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review and his own poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, American Literary Review, The Collagist, Crab Orchard Review, Ninth Letter, Southern Poetry Review, and many other literary journals.

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Small Wars by Hai Dan Phang. Hai-Dang Phan’s Small Wars “superimposes the grotesque militarism of American everyday life on the cultural dislocations of first- and second-generation Vietnamese immigrants. The poems are at once lyrical, darkly humorous, and chilling as they chart the startling collisions of our private and public conflicts.” Hai-Dang Phan’s poetry has been published in The New Yorker, POETRY Magazine, Best American Poetry 2016jubilat, Prelude, and New England Review. A recipient of fellowships and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the American Literary Translators Association, and the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, Phan holds degrees in creative writing from the University of Florida (MFA) and English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). Born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin, he currently lives in Des Moines and teaches at Grinnell College.

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House A by Jennifer Cheng “investigates the tones and textures of immigrant home-building by asking: How is the body inscribed with a cosmology of home, and vice versa? With evocative and intellectual precision, House A weaves personal, discursive, and lyrical textures to invoke the immersive-obscured experience of an immigrant home’s entanglement while mapping a new poetics of American Home, steeped in longing and rooted by displacement.” Jennifer S. Cheng received her BA from Brown University, MFA in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa, and MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State University. She is the author of HOUSE A, selected by Claudia Rankine as winner of the Omnidawn Poetry Book Prize, and Invocation: An Essay (New Michigan Press), a chapbook in which fragments of text, photographs, found images, and white space influence one another to create meaning. A U.S. Fulbright scholar, Kundiman fellow, and Bread Loaf work-study scholar, she is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, the Ann Fields Poetry Award, the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize, and two 2015 Pushcart Prize nominations. Her poetry and lyric essays appear in Tin House, Web Conjunctions, Mid-American Review, AGNI, The Normal School, The Volta, Tupelo Quarterly, Seneca Review, Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing), and elsewhere. Having grown up in Texas, Hong Kong, and Connecticut, she currently lives in rapture of the coastal prairies of northern California. She participates in women-curated adventures at Drop Leaf Press.

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So Much Synth by Brenda Shaughnessy. In this collection she “revisits the romances, isolation, and music of adolescence. This book is composed of equal parts femininity, pain, pleasure, critique and synthesizer.” Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of three books of poetry, including Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon), which was a New York Times Book Review “100 Notable Books of 2013.” Shaughnessy’s poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harper’s, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and daughter.

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Map of an Onion by Kenji Liu. Kenji C. Liu is author of Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize. Among other places, his poetry appears in American Poetry Review, Action Yes!, Barrow Street Journal, Asian American Literary Review, Split This Rock’s poem of the week series, three anthologies and a chapbook, You Left Without Your Shoes. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, VONA/Voices, Djerassi, and the Community of Writers.

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Radio Heart, or How Robots Fall Out of Love by Margaret Rhee Depending on who you talk to, Radio Heart, or How Robots Fall Out of Love came out this year or in 2015, but we’re including it in either case. Published in 2015, Radio Heart; or, How Robots Fall Out of Love,was selected as a Split This Rock: 2015 Poetry Books We Love, and taught in courses at UCSD, Yale, UC Berkeley, and CSUN. Margaret Rhee is an artist and scholar engaged in the poetics and technologies of difference. She is the recipient of poetry fellowships from the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop, and Kundiman. Her project The Kimchi Poetry Machine was sponsored by the UC Invention Lab and selected to exhibit at the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 3. Currently, she is a visiting assistant professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies department at the University of Oregon. In 2014, she earned her Ph.D. in ethnic studies, with a designated emphasis in new media studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

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In the Tongue of Ghosts by Jade Cho. Jade Cho is a writer and educator from Oakland, California. The granddaughter of Toisanese immigrants, her writing explores diaspora, race, gender, ghosts, and the intersections of power and privilege that impact us all. She is the author of In the Tongue of Ghosts (First Word Press, 2016). Her writing has appeared in Namjai: A Tribute to Bay Area API Poets, Third Woman Pulse, and The Offing. She has been on two nationally-competing slam teams, representing the Bay Area at Brave New Voices 2010 and UC Berkeley at College Unions Poetry Slam 2013, where she was awarded “Best Political Poem” and “Best Writing as a Team.” She has performed and facilitated workshops at venues across the nation, from Davies Symphony Hall and Nourse Theater in San Francisco, to Occidental College and Wesleyan University. As a teaching artist, Jade has worked as a poet mentor at Youth Speaks, a Student Teacher Poet in June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at UC Berkeley, and a coach of UC Berkeley’s slam team. A Berkeley alumna with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies, she currently serves full-time as Writing Program Co-coordinator at the Student Learning Center, where she supports Cal undergraduates in their growth as writers and scholars. She is also a founding member of Ghostlines, a Bay Area collective of artists and educators, and an organizer of The Root Slam, a bimonthly open mic & slam venue in Oakland.

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Driving Without a License by Janine Joseph. “The best way to hide is in plain sight. In this politically-charged and candid debut, we follow the chronicles of an undocumented immigrant speaker from the Philippines over a twenty-year span as she grows up in the foreign and forbidding landscape of America.”  Janine Joseph was born and raised in the Philippines and Southern California. Driving without a License (Alice James Books, 2016), is the winner of the 2014 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays about growing up undocumented in America have appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Best New Poets, Best American Experimental Writing, Zócalo Public Square, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. Her commissioned libretti for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco include What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline, “On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother’s Mother. Janine holds an MFA from New York University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston, where she was a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. She has taught creative writing with Writers in the Schools, Community~Word Project, and the Starworks Foundation. A recipient of a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, an Inprint/Barthelme Fellowship in Poetry, a Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Fellowship for Collaboration Among the Arts, a PAWA Manuel G. Flores Prize, a Howard Nemerov Poetry Scholarship, and an Academy of American Poets prize, Janine is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University.

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Shipwreck Smiles 
by Lauren AndreiShipwreck Smiles is “a thought provoking collection of poetry that dives into issues of being Mexican-Pinay growing up in america, betrayal, and what its like to be a mermaid on land.” Lauren Andrei was born to a viraginous, Filipina woman and a green-thumbed Mexican man. She is fire breathing dragon herself. As a young girl, she jumped into the deep end of the pool and starting drowning but the water did not win. She started combating dream demons nightly and developed quite the hero complex. In the waking world, she is a part-time Oncology Nurse, artist and burrito huntress! Incidentally, she believes they are serendipitously connected. She also performs on stage, on film, and is a voiceover talent. She was last seen onstage in Stories High XIV in San Francisco, where she played the lead role of Despina and performs often as part of the all-female sketch comedy troupe Granny Cart Gangstas. You can find her “in the ocean, if you can find her at all.”

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Theory on Falling into a Reef by Michelle Brittan Rosado. Michelle Brittan Rosado earned her MFA from California State University, Fresno, and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at University of Southern California as a Wallis Annenberg Endowed Fellow. She has received awards and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Vermont Studio Center, and USC’s Center for Transpacific Studies. Her work is published or forthcoming in literary journals including Calyx, Crab Creek Review, Los Angeles Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, and Quarterly West, as well as the anthology Time You Let Me In. A native of San Francisco, she now lives in Long Beach.

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Night Sky With Exit Wounds
by Ocean Vuong.
 Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection “aims straight for the perennial “big”—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.” Born in Saigon, poet and editor Ocean Vuong was raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and earned a BFA at Brooklyn College (CUNY). Vuong is the author of the poetry collections Night Sky With Exit Wounds (2016) and the chapbooks No (2013) and Burnings (2010), which was an Over the Rainbow selection by the American Library Association. His work has been translated into Hindi, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese. His honors include fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Poets House, Kundiman, and the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts as well as an Academy of American Poets Prize, an American Poetry Review Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets, a Pushcart Prize, and a Beloit Poetry Journal Chad Walsh Poetry Prize. In 2014, Vuong was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He received a Whiting Award in 2016. He lives in Queens, New York, where he serves as managing editor for Thrush Press.

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The Old Philosopher by Vi Khi Nao. Winner of the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry, The Old Philosopher is “enigmatic, sexual, biblical, anachronistic, political, and personal all at once. These quiet, implosive poems inhabit a nonlinear temporality in which Vi Khi Nao brings biblical time and political time together in the same poetic space, allowing current affairs to converse with a more ancient and historical reality.” Vi Khi Naowas born in Long Khanh, Vietnam. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes and Feldman Prizes in fiction and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award in poetry. Her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She is the author of two novellas, Swans in HalfMourning (2013) and  The Vanishing Point ofDesire (2011). She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

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Power Made Us Swoon 
by Brynn Saito. “Guided by the character of the Woman Warrior―witty, swift, and ruthless in her wonder―readers of Brynn Saito’s second collection of poetry travel the terrain of personal and historical memory: narrative poems about family, farming towns, and the bravery of girlhood are interspersed with lyric poetry written from the voice of a stone found in a Japanese American internment camp during the wartime incarceration. What histories can be summoned with poetry? What are the forces shaping an American life in the 21st century? Car accidents, patriarchy, and television fall under this poet?s gaze, along with the intergenerational reverberations of historical trauma. As with The Palace of Contemplating Departure, Saito’s first award-winning collection, Power Made Us Swoon strives for wonder and speaks–in edgy and vulnerable tones–of the fraught journey toward a more just world.”  Brynn Saito is the author of Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Brynn co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions (2013). She was born and raised Fresno, California, to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in such journals as Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Ninth Letter. Brynn is the recipient of a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship, the Poets 11 award from the San Francisco Public Library, and the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award. She holds degrees from Sarah Lawrence College (MFA, creative writing), New York University (MA, religious studies), and UC Berkeley (BA, philosophy). Currently, Brynn lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. More at: Http://brynnsaito.com/

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Blackacre by Monica Youn. “First coined in 1628, the term “blackacre” is a legal fiction, a hypothetical estate. It is also a password among lawyers marking one’s initiation into a centuries-old tradition of legal indoctrination. Monica Youn’s fascinating, multifaceted new collection, Blackacre, uses the term to suggest landscape, legacy, what is allotted to each of us—a tract of land, a work of art, a heritage, a body, a destiny. What are the limits of the imagination’s ability to transform what is given? On any particular acre, can we plant a garden? Found a city? Unearth a treasure? Build a home? Youn brings her lawyerly intelligence and lyric gifts to bear on questions of fertility and barrenness as she attempts to understand her own desire—her own struggle—to conceive a child. Where the shape-making mind encounters unalterable fact, Blackacre explores new territories of art, meaning, and feeling.” Monica Youn is the author of Blackacre (Graywolf Press, 2016); Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003); and Ignatz (Four Way Books, 2010), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the New York Times Magazine, and she has been awarded fellowships from the Library of Congress and Stanford University, among other awards. A former attorney, she now teaches poetry at Princeton University.

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Unbearable Splendor by Sun Yung Shin. Sun Yung Shin “moves ideas—of identity (Korean, American, adoptee, mother, Catholic, Buddhist) and interest (mythology, science fiction, Sophocles)— around like building blocks, forming and reforming new constructions of what it means to be at home.What is a cyborg but a hybrid creature of excess? A thing that exceeds the sum of its parts. A thing that has extended its powers, enhanced, even superpowered.” Sun Yung Shin is the author of poetry collections Rough, and Savage and Skirt Full of Black, which won an Asian American Literary Award. She co-edited the anthology Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption, and is the author of Cooper’s Lesson, a bilingual Korean/English illustrated book for children. She’s received grants and fellowships from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis.

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Solar Maximum by Sueyeun Juliette Lee came out in December, 2015, but that’s just close enough to the bubble that we’ll include it in this round up. Sueyeun Juliette Lee grew up three miles from the CIA. She edits Corollary Press, a chapbook series devoted to multi- ethnic innovative writing, and writes poetry reviews for The Constant Critic. Her books include THAT GORGEOUS FEELING (Coconut Press, 2008) and Underground National (Factory School) as well as numerous chapbooks. A Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature, she has held residencies for poetry and video art at Kunstnarhuset Messen (Norway), Hafnarborg (Iceland), and UCross Foundation in Wyoming.

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About Laomagination Media

Focused on a mission to develop a body of multicultural, multimedia resources that meets the needs of Lao Americans and their friends and families interested in the speculative arts, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, horror or other artistic genres engaging the Lao imagination and heritage.
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