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It’s May again, which means it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month… so what better time than now to take a quiz and get a recommendation for a book of poetry ?
As always, it is difficult to limit the field to a few poets. Impossible, really. To narrow the field, I went with very recently published poetry collections. I hope that means you haven’t had a chance to read them yet either.
That said, there is always room for old collections!
If you’re interested in Pacific Native poetry but don’t know any specific names, Mauri Ola is a great place to start. Of course, you can always pick up books like Brandy Nālani McDougall’s amazing work called The Salt-Wind or Emelihter Kihleng’s superb collection called My Urohs. And, of course, I’m still a fan of Craig Santos Perez’s inventive and thought-provoking poetry; Habitat Threshold is his most recent book of poetry, but he also published a critical work this year titled Navigating CHamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization that is well worth checking out.
Likewise, many Asian American poets have collections that are readily available for your perusal. Barbara Jane Reyes is one of my favorites and she just so happens to have recently published a piece of creative non-fiction called Wanna Peek Into My Notebook?: Notes on Pinay Liminality that I am positively drooling over. Along the same lines, poet Aimee Nexhukumatathil’s World of Wonders blends nature writing, memoirs and cultural criticism for an unforgettable poetic prose reading. And guess what? The brilliant Franny Choi has a new collection of poetry called The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On currently slated for release next November, so keep an eye out for that one!
But you didn’t come here for a list, did you? You came here to take a quiz! So without further ado, answer a few questions and you’ll get a recommendation tailored to your answers. And I promise you there is no double-dipping here! None of the recommendations you will get from this quiz are works that I named above.
Good quiz to you!
Muscular Goddess by Karlo Mila
muscle goddess is beautiful. It’s visually stunning, both in terms of the literal form of the words on the pages and the use of colors and images. Karlo Mila’s latest collection is all about love, ancestry, history and indigenity. It is a real poetic tour de force.
The Last Thing by Patrick Rosal
As is often the case with the poetry of Patrick Rosal, the last thing is full of music. It’s contemporary, urban and moving as hell. Bonus: in addition to the new poems that open the collection, you get selections from each of Rosal’s previous books!
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
time is a mother is both deeply personal and political. At its core, this collection is Ocean Vuong’s poetic account of the loss of his mother. As he grapples with grief, he also makes forays into more experimental poetry while connecting Vuong’s personal story to a larger (inter)national story.
Trees Witness Everything by Victoria Chang
The simple cover of this thin volume is a nod to the apparent simplicity of the poems it contains. However, appearances can be deceiving. The trees bear witness to everything engages in Japanese poetic forms called “wakas” that are powerful in their brevity. Most pages contain two poems (with one notable exception), but it’s Victoria Chang so these poems pack a punch!
Mai Der Vang Yellow Rain
Mai Der Vang’s poetry collection plays with visual layout in ways that complement the political aims of the collection. Grappling with histories of violence stemming from U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Laos, yellow rain is an intense and important work on Hmong refugees, chemical warfare and history.
There are so many brilliant Asian American and Pacific Native writers out there! Check out some of my other poetry suggestions from Asian American writers or Native poets you should know about. This list of 24 award-winning poetry books is another fabulous resource! If you’re looking specifically for works by AAPI writers and want to move away from poetry, consider the names in this list of 25 AAPI authors to get you started.