April is National Poetry Month! I was recently talking to my sister, and she told me that she’s taken to reading poetry at night. It’s relaxing while still requiring thought, and it’s easy to just read a few poems, close the book, and go to sleep. I thought this was such an excellent idea, so I put some poetry books on hold at the library to get me started.
In light of the recent attacks on Asian Americans, and the continued presence of racism and xenophobia in the United States, I thought I’d put together a list of poetry books written by AAPI authors. These collections speak so powerfully to breadth of the Asian American experience. They’re passionate, sobering, thought-provoking, and beautifully written.
The Artist’s Daughter by Kimiko Hahn: These intimate, haunting, emotional poems explores Hahn’s various identities: mother, lover, wife, poet, daughter. With a sideshow-esque exploration of strange and startling cases, these poems ultimately speak to our shared humanity.
Sightseer in This Killing City by Eugene Gloria: Through the voice of a central character, a Filipina American woman named Nacirema, we see a woman who lives with both brutality and beauty. Each of the poems explores disorientation in urban environments with beautiful prose and gripping intensity.
Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang: A clever, carefully crafted collection about the desire to fit in and the struggle for acceptance. From the first poem to the last, this collection takes you on a journey through the intricacies of the Asian American experience.
The Galleons by Rick Barot: In these stunning, thoughtful poems, Barot critiques imperialism and capitalism. These poems are rooted in history and his own family’s immigrant journey to create a riveting reading experience.
Hybrida by Tina Chang: A timely, stirring examination of mixed-race identity, violence, and history rendered through the lens of motherhood. These poems are passionate and political, confronting the challenge of raising a mixed-race child in a violent America.
Registers of the Illuminated Villages by Tarfia Faizullah: Powerful, stirring accounts of violence, war, and loss are detailed in poems that take many forms in this collection. These poems take us on an uncomfortable journey that inspires empathy for a central speaker who straddles two worlds. It’s a truly beautiful collection.
The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women’s Anthology: Collecting over 80 Asian American writer’s and artist’s voices, this is an emotional, multi-faceted collection of poems, stories, and art detailing the Asian American experience. Unfortunately, I think this anthology is out of print, but I scored a copy from my library and had to include it!
If you’re looking for more AAPI poets, check out the Poetry Foundation’s great list of Asian American Voices in Poetry!
Obviously, we have to do a lot more than read AAPI authors if we want real change, but reflecting on whose stories you’re reading is incredibly important. If you have the means to make donations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Stop AAPI Hate are great organizations to support.
Who are your favorite AAPI authors? What are you picking up for National Poetry Month? Let me know!