Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Debora Kuan's 'Pastoral"

Asian American poet Debora Kuan has a poem, "Pastoral" featured at the Poetry Society of America. The Poetry Society of America has featured a number of Asian American writers in the past including Barbara Jane Reyes.  Helpfully, Kuan writes about her poem, and why she opted to use surrealism and ekphrasis within her work.

She writes: "They are not so much full-blown characters as they are gestures at ethnicity. I wanted the poem to be about exile and migration—my parents' and grandparents' stories, and consequently, mine—but without the attendant burdens of history or time, or the strict parameters of a specific nationality. This openness is very important to me. As a writer steeped in the Western canon, I know very little about Chinese poetry and literature, classical or otherwise, but I want to speak to this schism, as well as the loss and frustration I feel in the face of a tradition I have only the most superficial access to."

There are questions within here that could apply to the challenges for Lao American and other Southeast Asian American poets as well. Does this make it good poetry? Is it readable? Would we return to it? When we employ these techniques, what lingers?

Kuan is "the recipient of a Fulbright creative writing scholarship (Taiwan), University of Iowa Graduate Merit Fellowship, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference scholarship, Santa Fe Art Institute writer's residency, and two Pushcart Prize nominations. She has taught creative writing at The College of New Jersey and the University of Iowa, and has written about contemporary art for Artforum, Art in America, Modern Painters, Paper Monument, and other publications. She also writes fiction and was a fellow in the CUNY Writers' Institute's program last year."

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