Celebrating Asian-American Poetry this National Poetry Month

Marlas Whitley

Staff Writer

Recent attacks against Asian-American citizens in the U.S. have been brought to the forefront of concern regarding systemic violence against marginalized groups. This stems from a deeper darkness rooted in our country and continually harms communities of color in America. Reckoning with these horrific acts of terror against Asian Americans, it is incumbent upon us to listen to and center Asian-American voices and their concerns in the paradigm shift we are experiencing as a nation. 

Standing in solidarity with Asian-Americans and practicing anti-racist work, I am using this article as a site for resources that we can learn and grow from. And being that April is National Poetry Month, I thought it would be a good idea to highlight some notable Asian-American poets and resources as a unique starting point. At the end, you can also find resources for Asian and Asian-American groups and organizations.

PC: Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

There are so many Asian-American poets that have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the ever-expansive American contemporary canon of poetry and, more broadly, literature in general. The work spans over a century, but the importance of their writings did not “gain recognition in mainstream culture or academia until the 1970s,” according to the Poetry Foundation. 

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s “Contemporary Asian-American Poets: A Top Ten List,” provides a good overview of notable writers and links to their earlier and lesser-known work. Poets such as Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge (pictured above), Timothy Liu, Prageeta Sharma and Hoa Nguyen are listed, among others. 

#ActualAsianPoets on Literary Hub is a beautifully written editorial highlighting poets such as Li-Young Lee, Jackie Wang and Wong May. The Poetry Foundation’s Asian-American Voices in Poetry provides a more extensive list of amazing poets. 

Part of their article states: “[The] collection is intended to introduce new readers to Asian American poets and to help those who are interested in learning more about these poets and their poetry. It is an ongoing project to make visible the vastness and variety of U.S. literary culture and to expand our notions of human experience in our time.” 

I appreciate this quote because it emphasizes the fact that there is no U.S. literary culture, or artistic culture more generally speaking if the names, voices, and visions of artists of color are pushed to the margins. In amplifying this vast array of Asian-American poets alone, it is a targeted work against erasure, stereotyping and hatred. It is only a small piece to a much bigger process but is nonetheless crucial and critical. 

Other publications and websites which center voices of the diaspora are The Asian-American Literary Review, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and Kundiman. For organizations, both national and regional, check out this non-exhaustive list (there are so many more out there!)

  • Asian Focus NC
  • Triangle Area Chinese American Society
  • North Carolina Asian-Americans Together
  • Asian-Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta.
  • Asian-Americans Advancing Justice – AJC (Washington, DC). 
  • Stop AAPI Hate.

Let’s enjoy National Poetry Month by celebrating the vast body of poetry by Asian-Americans, and work together to Stop Asian Hate.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured

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