Leah Silvieus is the author most recently of the poetry collection Arabilis and is the co-editor of The World I Leave You: Asian American Poets on Faith and Spirit. She holds an MFA from the University of Miami and has awards and fellowships from The National Book Critics Circle, Fulbright, and Kundiman. Her criticism has appeared in The Harvard Review, The Believer, and elsewhere. She is currently based in New Haven, CT, where she is studying literature and religion at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
There was a legend at my junior high that a girl named Nellie had died of a broken heart after her boyfriend had shown up to a dance with another date. Older girls whispered that her ghost could be heard crying in the girls’ bathroom, a pastel pink and yellow linoleum artifact of the ’70s, its stall doors hand-painted with life-sized girls in gingham patterned prairie dresses and large sunbonnets that obscured their faces.
Hyphen stands with the Black community in recognition of the disproportionate oppression it has faced and continues to face in this country. It is critical that Asian Americans speak out against anti-Black racism and do what we can to end the systemic oppression that threatens their lives.
Su Hwang’s debut poetry collection Bodega (Milkweed Editions) moves through individual and collective memory as one might move through an actual bodega: fingers running across detergent and snacks in bright packages, delivering greetings to someone from the neighborhood, trying to remember what you came to get in the first place, recalling a memory sparked by the sudden whiff of a familiar smell.
Deconstructing the foods and flavors of childhood have played a prominent role in trying to figure out what it means to, as Christine H. Lee posits in the first piece in this series, “How to Play with Your Food Like an Asian American.” Some of us willingly forget the days of “stinky” lunches or having to explain the smells from our moms’ kimchi refrigerator in our garage.
For years, I skulked along the edges of the adoptee community. I read anything I could find by adoptees and combed online forums about adoption late at night wondering how these people could be so open about their adoption or frustration with their birth or adoptive families — how they could reach out to complete strangers over the Internet for support. I resisted talking about my own adoption, even with my adoptee friends.
Vietnamese American poet Duy Doan, the 2017 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, first came to love poetry, as many poets do, by finding a poem that he was immediately drawn to as a young person. In an eighth-grade English class, Doan received an assignment to select and memorize a poem. He recalls selecting one from a chapter titled “Bad Poetry and Good” from the class’s textbook, Sound and Sense, by Laurence Perrine.
Chapbooks spread in popularity during the Early Modern period in Europe, peddled by “chapmen” who traveled from town to town. They were small, coverless pamphlets often comprising a single folded page. They detailed current events; told tales of chivalry, mystery or magic; and spread moral instruction. They were inexpensive to produce and gained popularity as literacy increased among the lower classes but printed books remained affordable only to the aristocracy.
This year marks the 20th birthday of Seeds from a Silent Tree, the first anthology by Korean American adoptee poets, which was published in 1997. Within a decade of its release, poetry collections written by Korean adoptees emerged, including Lee Herrick’s This Many Miles from Desire, Sun Yung Shin’s Skirt Full of Black and Jennifer Kwon Dobbs’ Paper Pavilion in 2007.
“Even if I shame myself, / please be kind to me,” E.J. Koh entreats an unidentified listener in “Showtime,” the opening poem of her poetry collection, A Lesser Love, winner of the Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry. The speaker’s vulnerability in these poems often draws the reader into the position of intimate witness, even confessor, as she addresses a series of “yous” who are at turns parents, ghosts, and lovers, and who sometimes remain unidentified.
The topaz gemstone is pleochroic; that is, it appears as different colors when viewed from various angles.