Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Adrienne Su

Happy birthday to Asian American poet Adrienne Su!

Among poets I've never met in person, her work remains profoundly important to me. Going on nearly 20 years, her 1997 book, Middle Kingdom was one of the key books that affected my approach to poetry in the early 2000s. Here's a 2007 profile she did for the National Endowment for the Arts. She's featured in numerous journals and recently released her fourth collection, Living Quarters in 2015. She's come a long way over the years.

Born in Atlanta, Adrienne Su studied at Harvard and the University of Virginia, and has had residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her poems appear in The New American Poets, Poetry Daily, Poetry 30, Asian-American Poetry: The Next Generation, and other anthologies. In 2003, she was the resident poet at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. She received a 2007 NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry.

Adrienne Su's poetry awards also include a Pushcart Prize, inclusion in Best American Poetry, and residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She lives in Pennsylvania, where she teaches English and directs a Creative Writing program.

Middle Kingdom, Adrienne Su's first collection of poems, explores American identity in terms of language, geography, and personal history. Starting in Georgia, the poems travel to New York, New England, China, Mexico, and other locales in the search for a sense of place. Probably one of the best places to start for getting a sense of her work and where she'd take it over the next two decades.

Written in the shadow of the devastating events of 9/11, these beautifully crafted narrative poems reveal heartfelt insights into the emotional life of a contemporary woman in her late thirties—balancing marriage, motherhood, and career—as well as contemplating her experience as the daughter of Chinese immigrants, for whom ambition is a lower priority than survival.

In Having None of It, her third collection, award-winning poet Adrienne Su reflects deeply about the circumstances in which people are forced to remake themselves: as parents, as immigrants, as people whose marriages have ended, as people who’ve wound up in a place they never intended to settle.

Living Quarters uses both the structure of a domestic space and the rhythms of the seasons to seek, but not reliably find, order and consolation in life's seeming disorder. Relationships dissolve; deaths come too soon; the past vanishes; the earth that gives beautiful and nourishing foods swallows up the creatures for whom it provides.

As the publisher notes: "These poems struggle with that mix of affirmation and destruction, celebrating nature's generosity while trying to make peace with its cruelty. Thought-provoking poems reflect an intimate internal dialogue, addressing, among other ideas, Is it really safer at home, or are there perils within our closest relationships, in daily domestic ritual? And where is home, when people are constantly moving, marriages dissolving, new relationships beginning and ending? When is a house just a house, and when does it become a home? Cooking warms a house and gives it a feeling of home, but does there also need to be a surrounding, anchoring community?"

Be sure to check her work out.

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