In 1992, Congress officially designated May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate those of Asian and Pacific heritage in the United States. The celebration observes those whose ancestry extends to the Asian continent as well as the Pacific islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. As part of our celebration of Asian/Pacific heritage this May—and all year round—we’ve curated this selection of poems, audio, videos, essays, books, and more from and about Asian American and Pacific American poets.
from “Surge” by Etel Adnan
A long night I spent …
“Muse” by Meena Alexander
I was young when you came to me …
“Even the Rain” by Agha Shahid Ali
What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain …
“Audience” by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
People think, at the theatre, an audience is tricked …
“Barbie Chang Got Her Hair Done” by Victoria Chang
Barbie Chang got her hair done for …
“Elegy with Apples, Pomegranates, Bees, Butterflies, Thorn Bushes, Oak, Pine, Warblers, Crows, Ants, and Worms” by Hayan Charara
The trees alongside the fence …
“American Syntax” by Ching-In Chen
The teacher straightbacked …
“How I Got That Name” by Marilyn Chin
I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin …
“Untitled [1950 June 27]” by Don Mee Choi
1950 June 27: my father heard the sound …
“Ramallah” by Bei Dao
in Ramallah …
“A Reactionary Tale” by Linh Dinh
I was a caring husband. I bought socks for my family…
“Poem Full of Worry Ending with My Birth” by Tarfia Faizullah
I worry that my friends...
“The Good Provider” by Sarah Gambito
The best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole…
“Tanka” by Sadakichi Hartmann
Winter? Spring? Who knows?
“Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins” by Cathy Park Hong
Chang spoke / Eng paused …
“Something Whispered in the Shakuhachi” by Garrett Hongo
No one knew the secret of my flutes …
“Saignee” by Tung-Hui Hu
They chew on flowers to bring color …
“Postpartum” by Hiromi Itō
Childbirth was not dying nor defecating …
“Names” by Fady Joudah
Thank you for dreaming of me …
“Humanimal [I want to make a dark mirror out of writing]” by Bhanu Kapil
47. I want to make a dark mirror …
“Dear Millennium, Inadequate Witness” by Karen An-hwei Lee
Say we no longer bear witness to a body-politic of trauma …
“Water in Love” by Ed Bok Lee
How to love like water loves …
“Folding a Five-Cornered Star So the Corners Meet” by Li-Young Lee
This sadness I feel tonight is not my sadness …
“The Tree Sparrows” by Joseph O. Legaspi
We suffer through blinding equatorial heat …
"Los Angeles, Manila, Đà Nẵng" by Cathy Linh Che
California drought withering the basins ...
“Leaving Seoul: 1953” by Walter K. Lew
We have to bury the urns …
“RPT MC-60 00.27 8” by Tan Lin
What is the relation between a fruit and a vegetable?
“White Boy Time Machine: Override” by Hieu Minh Nguyen
No matter where we go, there’s a history …
“Anna May Wong on Silent Films” by Sally Wen Mao
It is natural to live in an era...
“The Iraqi Nights” by Dunya Mikhail
In Iraq …
“For a Daughter Who Leaves” by Janice Mirikitani
A woman weaves …
“Vestigial Bones” by Rajiv Mohabir
jaunse tu bhagela ii toke nighalayihe...
“Morning Song” by Sawako Nakayasu
Every time, these days, it seems, an equation gets forced …
“Wrap” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
I don’t mean when a movie ends …
“I Hear You Call, Pine Tree” by Yone Noguchi
I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill …
“Swell” by Hoa Nguyen
Swell you can dream more the earth …
“Build, Now, a Monument” by Matthew Olzmann
No longer satisfied by the way time slips …
“Six Persimmons” by Shin Yu Pai
after ruining another season’s harvest—
“Nommo in September” by Hannah Sanghee Park
There you exist in water …
“Touched by Dusk, We Know Better Ourselves” by Sasha Pimentel
You map my cheeks in gelatinous dark, your torso …
“Things We Carry on the Sea” by Wang Ping
We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother …
“Again, She Tells the First Story” by Barbara Jane Reyes
Once, when there was no light, the wind danced …
“Brokeheart: Just like that” by Patrick Rosal
When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ …
“Lines on a Skull” by Ravi Shankar
Start spirit; behold …
“Mess Hall” by Solmaz Sharif
Your knives tip down …
“Poetry Anonymous” by Prageeta Sharma
Do not fall in love with a poet …
“Never Ever” by Brenda Shaughnessy
Alarmed, today is a new dawn …
“Water Grave” by Mai Der Vang
We cross under…
“Divine Poems (134)” by José Garcia Villa
“Self-Portrait as Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong
Instead, let it be the echo to every footstep…
“Eden” by David Woo
Yellow-oatmeal flowers of the windmill palms…
“Rootless” by Jenny Xie
Between Hanoi and Sapa there are clean slabs of rice fields …
Featured Audio Poems
“Sleep” by Rita Banerjee
“There, There, Grieving” by Zeina Hashem Beck
“Quarantine” by Franny Choi
“Duet” by Duy Doan
“Where the Sky Meets the Earth” by W. Todd Kaneko
“The War in Colors” by Dunya Mikhail
“Ode to Richmond Hill” by Rajiv Mohabir
“ojha: rituals” by Raena Shirali
“Peaches” by Adrienne Su
from Notes on the Shape of Absence by Celina Su
“Dear Nainai,” by Jennifer Tseng
“To Live in the Zombie Apocalypse” by Burlee Vang
“Looking at My Father” by Wendy Xu
“Study of Two Figures (Ignatz/Krazy)” by Monica Youn
“Portrait in Graphite and Ornamental Hagiography” by C. Dale Young
Writing from the Absence: Voices of Hmong American Poets
We invited 2016 Walt Whitman winner Mai Der Vang to curate a five-part series that highlights a small community of Hmong American poets whose voices enrich and bring greater diversity to the literary landscape of this country. Each month, Vang featured a poem by and discussion with a Hmong American poet as a way to showcase their work and explore the themes that drive them to write.
Making the Case for Asian American Poetry by Timothy Yu
In this essay, Yu discusses why educators shouldn’t “shy away from giving poetry a central place in the Asian American literature classroom.”
A Brief Guide to Misty Poets
The Misty Poets, a generation of poets who flourished in China from the spring of 1979 until the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989, were known for their use of obscure and hermetic images and metaphors and their emphasis on subjective experience.
In the Margin, Fertile Things Happen: Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge in Conversation
Laura Hinton speaks to Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge about experimental poetics, hybrid forms, and the ethos and aesthetics of her own work in this transcribed interview.
A Brief Guide to Kanaka Maoli Poetry
Read about Kanaka Maoli poetry, Hawaiian poetry that has become associated with poets who attempt to honor the use of native Hawaiian language in their work, either exclusively or as a hybrid of vernacular, pidgin, and native words.
Six Poets, Six Questions: Cathy Park Hong in Conversation
As part of the fifth annual Poets Forum, we interviewed Cathy Park Hong about her writing process, her go-to poets, her relationship with social media, and more.
The Totality of Causes: Li-Young Lee and Tina Chang in Conversation
In this interview, Tina Chang speaks to Li-Young Lee about his collection Book of My Nights, as well as his early experiences with language and poetry, his relationship with his father, the weight of absence, the cost of transcendence, and the infinite possibilities of a poem.
Poetry: The Question of Home by Meena Alexander
In this essay, Meena Alexander recounts her early relationship to poetry, her search to find a home within a language, and her discovery of poetry as the “music of survival.”
Six Poets, Six Questions: Brenda Shaughnessy in Conversation
As part of the sixth annual Poets Forum, we interviewed Brenda Shaughnessy about her go-to poets, the role of the poet in today’s culture, her favorite and least favorite words, her relationship with social media, and more.
Kubota by Garrett Hongo
In this personal essay, Garrett Hongo remembers his grandfather and his family’s experience living as a Japanese-American family in Hawaii then California in the aftermath of World War II.
Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, and Ravi Shankar
This powerful anthology compiles contemporary poetry from Asian and Middle Eastern poets, as well as poets living in the diaspora.
Poems of the Masters: China’s Classic Anthology of T’Ang and Sung Dynasty Verse by Red Pine
For the past eight centuries Poems of the Masters has been China’s most studied and memorized collection of verse. This edition contains, for the first time in English, the complete text prepared by renowned translator Red Pine.
The Veiled Suite: The Collected Poems by Agha Shahid Ali
Collecting together the life work of Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali, The Veiled Suite allows readers to witness the poet’s transition from the direct narratives of his earliest work to the passionate and layered lyrics of his later collections.
Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities by Kazim Ali
The “lyric essays” in this book, part memoir and part travelogue, are deep investigations into the coming-of-age process.
Some Say the Lark by Jennifer Chang
The ambitious and heartfelt second volume from Jennifer Chang gives many kinds of readers many ways in.
Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang
Those amused, or shocked, by Victoria Chang’s The Boss (McSweeney’s, 2013)—an almost giddily unified book in which every poem used metaphors from an oppressive workplace—should like Chang’s Barbie Chang.
Split by Cathy Linh Che
The title of Che’s debut collection, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, suggests the original Greek meaning of the word trauma: wound, that which splits the mind or flesh.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen
The jubilantly titled debut from Chen Chen weaves together his complex narrative as an immigrant and a queer man.
Juvenilia by Ken Chen
The 2009 winner of the annual Yale Younger Poets competition, Ken Chen’s Juvenilia features poems that are varied and anything but formally conventional, conveying a kaleidoscopic intelligence.
The Morning News Is Exciting by Don Mee Choi
In this first book of poems, Don Mee Choi takes on a fearless exploration of self, family, community, and global identities.
Toxic Flora by Kimiko Hahn
Fascinating facts about the natural world provide fertile ground for insights into human relationships in Kimiko Hahn’s eighth book of poems, Toxic Flora.
Sorrows of the Warrior Class by Raza Ali Hasan
Changes in culture and government, in expectations, and in the built environment—during Hasan’s own youth, before he was born, and again “[s]ince 1979, the year of Bhutto’s hanging” run like ample cables through his poems of explanation, denunciation, exculpation, emigration and return.
Killing Kanoko by Hiromi Itō
Killing Kanoko is a striking, important collection by a radical Japanese feminist poet essential to contemporary Japanese poetry.
Time of Sky & Castles in the Air by Ayane Kawata
In this double volume of Kawata’s poetry, the language and experience of dreaming abounds.
The Undressing by Li-Young Lee
Li-Young Lee’s fifth book of verse, The Undressing, unequivocally aims for passionate, pure, and enchanted speech, taking the lyric poem as more than a vessel for perfunctory, manufactured feeling; rather, the form serves the sentiment, as the emotions emerge from the urgency of their saying.
Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Any reader who encounters Hieu Minh Nguyen’s second collection, Not Here, will likely be struck by the intense sense of longing and hunger that pulses at the center of his poems.
Red Juice: Poems 1998-2008 by Hoa Nguyen
This volume collects work from the first decade of the poet’s prolific career, bringing together poems from two previous small-press collections (and several more chapbooks) to form a welcome archive of Nguyen’s voice.
Contradictions in the Design by Matthew Olzmann
Olzmann’s new book, his second, finds its author fascinated by duplicates and by time.
For Want of Water by Sasha Pimentel
Sasha Pimentel‘s For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017) was selected by Gregory Pardlo as a winner of the National Poetry Series.
Diwata by Barbara Jane Reyes
In this series of mostly prose poems, Barbara Jane Reyes invokes creation stories from Genesis and from Tagalog tradition, creating a text that is a hybrid of Filipina and Western storytelling.
Boneshepherds by Patrick Rosal
In Patrick Rosal’s third collection of poems, themes of violence and beauty often coincide within the narrative.
So Much Synth by Brenda Shaughnessy
Re-creating, synthesizing (as it were) her youth and adulthood as Duran Duran and Simple Minds synthesized their catchiest melodies, Shaughnessy gains power as she modulates from memory into feminist argument, and then—in the last few poems—into speech as a responsible adult.
Afterland by Mai Der Vang
The 2016 winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Afterland tells the personal story of Mai Der Vang’s family alongside the broader cultural story of the Hmong people and their exodus from Laos.
Further Adventures in Monochrome by John Yau
In this substantial volume, Yau explores identity and personal mythology through various lenses.
To Whitey and the Cracker Jack by HAUNTIE (May Yang)
This debut from HAUNTIE (the nom de plume of the Hmong American writer May Yang) puts its performance of outrage at center stage and justifies its stances thoroughly too.
Blackacre by Monica Youn
Youn is a former lawyer and her book Blackacre is about an absence, ostensibly a hoped-for child, but also something yet more universal like a stake in the world or temperamental access to its richness.