Of Color: Poets’ Ways Of Making
How do poets of color come to know what they do about their art and practice? How do they learn from and teach others? For poets of color, what does the relationship of “what one knows” have with conditions extending but not limited to publishing, mentorship and pedagogy, comradeship and collegiality, friendship, love, and possibility? Is one a real poet if one does not have an MFA? For minority poets not considered part of the mainstream because of the combined effects of their ethnic, class, racial, cultural, linguistic, and other identities, what should change in order to accord them the space and respect they deserve? How best can they discuss with and pass on what they have learned to others?
These and other questions come up so consistently in our daily experience as poets of color. And we hear them from poets of color at various stages of their careers. Out of the desire not only to hear from each other but also to share what we’ve learned—each from our unique as well as bonded experiences of writing as poets of color in this milieu — this anthology project was born.
In this collection, we make no claims of presenting any definitive theoretical or other stance. Neither do we offer these essays as prescriptive of certain ways of thinking of craft or of doing things, although in them is expressed a collective wish — that writers of color find ways to gain strength and visibility without replicating the systems that play the game of divide and conquer and turn us against each other for narrow or self-serving profit. Instead, let there be a steady effort to compile lore and take inventory of strategies, intersections, bridges; to map our histories, to sight possibilities for the future.
We are honored and thankful to have the words of the following poets in this anthology: Mai Der Vang (Foreword), Ching-In Chen, Addie Tsai, Tony Robles, Wendy Gaudin, Ernesto L. Abeytia, Abigail Licad, Tim Seibles, Melissa Coss Aquino, Sasha Pimentel, José Angel Araguz, Khadijah Queen, Remica L. Bingham-Risher, Ocean Vuong, Craig Santos Perez, and Kenji Liu.
About the Contributor(s)
Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world's first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. Former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey selected her chapbook What is Left of Wings, I Ask as the 2018 recipient of the Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Poetry Chapbook award. Other works include The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), and 12 other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. Follow Luisa A. Igloria: @poetslizard on IG.
Amanda Galvan Huynh is the author of a chapbook, Songs of Brujería (Big Lucks, 2019). She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Sundress Academy for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, NY Summer Writers Institute, and Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. She is a winner of a 2016 AWP Intro Journal Project Award, and a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship. Follow Amanda Galvan Huynh: @amghuynh on IG.
The front and back covers of this book feature paintings by artist Suchitra Mattai, a collaborator who also provided work for a 2018 release, Chlorosis. Mattai is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Suchitra was born in Guyana, South America, but has also lived in Halifax and Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Philadelphia, New York City, Minneapolis, and Udaipur, India. These diverse natural and cultural environments have greatly influenced her work and research. While her practice includes a wide range of materials and ideas, her primary interests include 1) the complex relationship between the natural and artificial worlds and 2) the questioning of historical and authoritative narratives, especially those surrounding colonialism. Through painting, fiber, drawing, collage, installation, video, and sculpture, she weaves narratives of “the other,” invoking fractured landscapes and reclaiming cultural artifacts (often colonial and domestic in nature).
Suchitra received an MFA in Painting and Drawing and an MA in South Asian art, both from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. She has exhibited her work in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Denver, Austin, Berlin, London, and Wales and her work has appeared in various publications such as The Daily Serving (Mailee Hung), New American Paintings, and will be in a forthcoming book, A Collection of Contemporary Women’s Voices on Guyana (Grace Anezia Ali, Brill Press). Her next projects include a large scale commission for the Sharjah Biennial (2019), group exhibitions with the Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC, Pen and Brush, New York, NY, and the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA. Recent projects include commissions with the Denver Art Museum/SkyHouse, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and solo exhibitions at the Center for Visual Art, Metropolitan State University Denver (2018), K Contemporary Gallery (2018), Denver, and GrayDuck Gallery, Austin (2018). She recently completed a residency at RedLine Contemporary Art Center, Denver, and is represented by K Contemporary Gallery Denver, and GrayDuck Gallery, Austin.
Mattai writes: In my practice, land is a conceptual space for the exploration of identity. The places I create are born from memory, history and imagination. Land can offer sanctuary or peril, sometimes both simultaneously. Through installations, mixed media drawings and paintings, collages, and video, I explore how our natural environment(s) shapes personal narratives, ancestral histories and constructions of “self.” I want my work to be both intimate and vast. Landscape allows me a wide visual lens within which to situate intimate cultural artifacts and discuss the inextricably intertwined relationship of history and identity. Combining fragments of landscape, vintage objects (often domestic), and culturally specific patterns, I create a nonlinear dialogue with the past. My current projects investigate the role of land in migrations, assimilations, and the creation of “home.”
Front: “There’s a rain cloud in my garden, if only I had a garden,” 2017. (Acrylic and gouache on synthetic paper, 27”x19.5”)
Back: “Plan B,” 2017. (Acrylic, tape, and gouache on vinyl, 19.5x27.5”)