New Books in Poetry: Locus by Jason Bayani

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Jason Bayani about his new book Locus (Omnidawn Publishing 2019).

“Poetry gave me back a way to find my culture, my history,” says Jason Bayani while discussion his new book Locus (Omnidawn Publishing 2019), which blends memoir and poetry into a stunning exploration of fragmented identities and the Pilipinx-American experience. Drawing inspiration from hip-hop and delving into the knotted complexity of family history and relationships, Bayani is able to recover a migrant identity and experience that is often silenced and shape a confident declaration of selfhood in American culture.

“In my grandfather’s last days
He wandered the rice fields alone.
What was left of his mind bringing him back
to what he spent his entire life building.

We are the land — lupa ay buhay, land is living.

When my father talks of his poverty, he presents
a bowl of rice and says, ‘Your Inang
would put one piece of fish on the table,
and we would press our fingers
against it for flavor.’ Mimicking his hand
scooping rice out of the bowl.”

— fragment from “The Low Lands”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice — and you can join New Books in Poetry in a discussion of this episode on Shuffle by signing up here.

Bayani’s recommended poets and artists from the podcast: Microchips for Millions by Janice Sapigao, This is for the Mostless by Jason Magabo Perez, Souvenir by Aimee Suzara, Circa 91 by Ruby Ibarra, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, Insurrecto by Gina Apostol, and Anak Ko by Jay Som.


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New Books in Poetry: The Gates of Never by Deborah L. Davitt

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Deborah L. Davitt about her new book The Gates of Never (Finishing Line Press, 2019).

Drawing on the author’s deep knowledge of classical literature, Deborah L. Davitt’s book of poetry The Gates of Never explores the intersections of myth, science, and humanity through her beautifully accessible poems, reflecting a variety of forms and linguistic styles. These poems morph between being moving, irreverent, unsettling, and erotic — offering up a richly textured collection of work.

“He writes me upside down
and backwards, so that
I hardly know myself yet,
but my hundred newly-open mouths
whisper secret meanings,
and offer atramentum kisses;

he soothes my wounds with
copper vitriol, making the words
holy and incorruptible,
incapable of fading into sepia;

yet as he kisses me, our tongues meeting,
the words spark white-fire
under my skin, the runes writhing
into new configurations”

– from “Testament”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: As One Fire Consumes Another by John Sibley Williams

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with John Sibley Williams about his book As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Books, 2019).

John Sibley Williams’ As One Fire Consumes Another presents a familiar world full of burnings carried out on both the grand and intimate scale. The newspaper-like columns of prose poetry provide a social critique of the violent side of American culture centered within the boundaries of self and family. Although an apocalyptic tension permeates throughout, these poems envision the kind of fires that not only provide destruction but also illuminate a spark of hope.  

“Dust rises from the road & there is
too much curve to resolve the edges
of embankment & asphalt. Backfire
keeps the pastureland carefully lit.
Static keeps us wanting for another
kind of song.”

— from “Story that Begins and Ends with Burning

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Oculus by Sally Wen Mao

A new episode of the New Books in Poetry podcast is up, in which I get to speak with Sally Wen Mao about her book Oculus (Graywolf Press, 2019).

In OculusSally Wen Mao explores exile not just as a matter of distance and displacement, but as a migration through time and a reckoning with technology. The title poem follows a girl in Shanghai who uploaded her suicide onto Instagram. Other poems cross into animated worlds, examine robot culture, and haunt a necropolis for electronic waste. A fascinating sequence speaks in the voice of international icon and first Chinese American movie star Anna May Wong, who travels through the history of cinema with a time machine, even past her death and into the future of film, where she finds she has no progeny. With a speculative imagination and a sharpened wit, Mao powerfully confronts the paradoxes of seeing and being seen, the intimacies made possible and ruined by the screen, and the many roles and representations that women of color are made to endure in order to survive a culture that seeks to consume them.

“I’ve tried to hard to erase myself.
That iconography—my face
in Technicolor, the manta ray

eyelashes, the nacre and chignon.
I’ll bet four limbs they’d cast me as another
Mongol slave. I will blow a hole

in the airwaves, duck lasers in my dugout.
I’m done kidding them. Today I fly
the hell out in my Chrono-Jet.”

— from “Anna May Wong Fans Her Time Machine”

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.


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New Books in Poetry: Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore by Frances Donovan

Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore by Frances Donovan

Athena Dixon shared a new interview with Frances Donovan for the New Books in Poetry podcast! According to Athena,

Grey Held writes of Frances Donovan‘s book, Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore (Reaching Press 2018 ), “there is hunting for love, there is basking in love, there is longing.” This collection offers all of these things. It examines what it is to love romantically, sexually, as a friend, and as a resident of the world. It pulls us down into the micro-moments of our lives and then catapults us out into the universe. In this episode, we touch upon marginalization, hope for inclusion, the writer’s journey, and how we come to the page on our own terms.

Mad Quick Hand of the Seashore was named a finalist in the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards. Her publication credits include The Rumpus, Snapdragon, and SWWIM. An MFA candidate at Lesley University, she is a certified Poet Educator with Mass Poetry and has appeared as a featured reader at numerous venues. She once drove a bulldozer in a GLBT Pride parade while wearing a bustier and combat boots. You can find her climbing hills in Boston and online at www.gardenofwords.com.

You can listen to the interview here or on the podcast app of your choice.