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 poetry collection?
As always, it’s hard to narrow down the field to just a few poets. Impossible, really. To narrow the field, I’ve gone with very recently released poetry collections. Hopefully that means you won’t have had a chance to read them yet either.
That being said, there’s always room for older collections!
If you’re interested in Indigenous Pacific poetry but aren’t familiar with 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 entitled The Salt-Wind or Emelihter Kihleng’s stunning collection called My Urohs. And, of course, I’m always a fan of Craig Santos Perez’s inventive and thought-provoking poetry; Habitat Threshold is his most recent poetry book, but he also published a critical work this year called Navigating CHamoru Poetry: Indigeneity, Aesthetics, and Decolonization that’s really worth checking out.
Likewise, many Asian American poets have collections that are readily available for your perusal. Barbara Jane Reyes is one of my personal faves and it just so happens that she recently released a work of creative nonfiction called Wanna Peek Into My Notebook?: Notes on Pinay Liminality that I’m positively drooling over. In a similar vein, poet Aimee Nexhukumatathil’s World of Wonders blends nature writing, memoir, and cultural criticism for an unforgettably poetic prose read. And guess what? The brilliant Franny Choi has a new poetry collection called The World Keeps Ending, and the World Goes On that’s currently slated for release this coming November, so keep your eyes 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 responses. And I promise, there’s no double-dipping here! None of the recommendations you’ll get from this quiz are works I named above.
Happy quizzing to you!
Goddess Muscle by Karlo Mila
Goddess Muscle is beautiful. It’s visually stunning, both in terms of the literal shape of the words on the pages as well as the use of colors and images. Karlo Mila’s latest collection is about love, ancestry, history, and indigeneity all at once. It’s a true poetic tour de force.
The Last Thing by Patrick Rosal
As is so often the case with Patrick Rosal’s poetry, 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 earlier books!
Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
Time is a Mother is simultaneously deeply personal and political. At its core, this collection is Ocean Vuong’s poetic reckoning with the loss of his mother. As it grapples with grief, it also forays into more experimental poetry while also connecting Vuong’s personal history to a wider (inter)national history.
The Trees Witness Everything by Victoria Chang
The simple cover of this slim volume is a nod to the apparent simplicity of the poems it contains. However, appearances can be deceiving. The Trees Witness Everything engages with Japanese poetic forms called “wakas” that are powerful in their brevity. Most pages contain two poems (with one of notable exception), but it’s Victoria Chang so these poems pack a punch!
Yellow Rain by Mai Der Vang
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 about Hmong refugees, chemical warfare, and history.
There are so many brilliant Asian American and Indigenous Pacific writers out there! Check out some of my other suggestions for poetry by Asian American writers or Indigenous poets you should know. This list of 24 award-winning books of poetry is another fabulous resource! If you’re specifically looking for works by AAPI writers and are willing to branch out from poetry, consider the names on this list of 25 AAPI authors to get you started.