Is this January? Dear page 31, My mother doesn’t trust her instincts, so it took me 20 minutes to drive to the next exit, turn around, get back on the freeway and find the dollar store. I hadn’t meant for the line to be saucy, but the whole page pulses and ripples beneath. What do I mean by “like” a language? This is the end, and I’m not explaining anything. I’m signing off as the person I am in this instant.
Is this January? Dear page 30, Last week my mother said her dad had Chinese blood and her mother royal, appearances being contrary. It might have been today that we kissed in a cemetery under a midnight sheet of snow. Strange choices, but you saw my hometown and that didn’t change a thing. I keep talking about you and my mother, which means I was still searching for love like a womb. In Thailand I want to make out with a dee who won’t be weirded out when I tell her I’m attracted to toms too.
Is this January? Dear page 29, I don’t want to give you my weight. I’m nearing the end, and I’m not waiting for you either.
Is this January? Dear page 28, I don’t want to tell you anything.
Is this January? Dear page 27, In order to move you have to shift your weight through your pelvis.
Is this January? Dear page 26, Some years start in April. Some Januaries are false, others actually points of take off. I’m going places, and I’m so glad that you’re far enough away in time that you’ve completely disappeared.
Is this January? Dear page 25, My stomach was up hungry last night thinking about MAMA kow soy and what it’s gonna be like, which is unusual for T minus 40 days. Or is it? A month is long enough to anticipate an arrival that turns out to be nothing like I imagined.
Is this January? Dear page 24, I got sick many times worrying about the future. You sent individually wrapped packets of sleepytime tea with notes saying, “I’m here.” I can’t believe I actually believed that.
Is this January? Dear page 23, With a sore beak I cut out every organ rotten with fever. I eat pho ga. Even without an internet connection I have feelings.
Is this January? Dear page 22, Ga dam. I am a scary crow, an outsider. I would rather read the text behind you that your body partially obscures.
Is this January? Dear page 21, In a dream I am crossing an intersection burnt harsh white. I can’t see anything, but I continue to cross in slow motion before what I know is sure to hit. This is just one of many recurring dreams in which I am moving forward without really knowing what comes next.
Is this January? Dear page 20, I just hit BUY on SFO – BKK roundtrip. The slash between two halves that is both a deletion and an international date line.
Is this January? Dear page 19, I don’t have anything to say about Neruda. Today I discovered that there’s an entire lifestyle magazine dedicated to toms, and a hot luk kreung tom named Zee. OMG, I think I’m a lesbian.
Is this January? Dear page 18, I used to stuff these letters into my joints and jambs – the source of all the mystery and the creeking. A creeker is what they called kids who lived by creeks that always flooded. When I was landlocked I missed hearing that sound. I missed swaying side to side as a way to move closer.
Is this January? Dear page 17, I was talking to you on the phone when you said, “I think this would be really good with scallops.” I wrote this before I met you, so of course this page foreshadows the giant pelvis ship we have yet to build. In Susan Howe’s “The Midnight,” there is a slip of paper on which someone wrote, “we without cannot – haunt.” I am a miniature submarine floating in the fog on the Vancouver set of “The X-Files.” “why huntress / why fathom.” I’m glad this “you” isn’t you.
Is this January? Dear page 16, I called my mom today. No one picked up the phone.
Is this January? Dear page 15, In junior high I still thought I was conceived through a partition. This is related to my fear of touch.
Is this January? Dear page 14, Six years ago my eyelashes froze while waiting for the bus. Even through four feet of snow and state lines I obsessively checked my email.
Is this January? Dear page 13, Erosion. Erasure. “She left me standing on the mountain. She left me standing there.”
Is this January? Dear page 12, Seven years ago today I wrote, “can’t think of anything else to say.”
Is this January? Dear page 11, John Yau wrote, “It is January, and you are in Bozeman, Montana. I thought I would begin this while you were in the air, above the floor plan of the clouds, their exhumed disarray and brittle gleam.” The difference between your hand and “when” is a falling vowel.
Is this January? Dear page 10, I have this I <3 MOUNTAINS bumper sticker. The people who think the mountains in WV aren’t really mountains are stupid.
Is this January? Dear page 9, I’m good at putting words between us.
Is this January? Dear page 8, I used to have this letter opener, but it was always easier to use my hand. It’s not like this is an actual conversation.
Is this January? Dear page 7, I think I was remembering a certain yellow hill on a postcard, and a yellow hill with yellow grass. Both are places that no longer exist. The postcard – ash. The hill – sold.
Is this January? Dear page 6, Writing to you today is harder. I wanted to make some joke about GPS navigation systems, iphones and tracking devices. I wanted to locate you in space. P.S. I hated living in Boulder, but you already know that. Even the nostalgia for West Virginia, for two syllables in Thai script, is less visceral than a desert infected with whiteness. I was so sure I wanted what was most difficult to describe.
Is this January? Dear page 5, It took me years to write that letter. For years I only moved my right hand.
Is this January? Dear page 4, Syntax shapes text like the specter of your body / my spectral desire shapes my loss, which is becoming more meaty than ghost.
Is this January? Dear page 3, I thought it would be cheesy to insert myself into the sentence like that.
Is this January? Dear page 2, I laid cloth over a map stuck with sticky tack to the wall. I turned the wall over to be continued. The ink is so dry I can’t even bleed through to the beginning.
Is this January? Dear page 1, I laid cloth over a map and wrote you a letter without ever leaving my shoebox room with the one dull red sharpie.
invites you to
LOVE & LIBERATION!
A KUNDIMAN READING
Celebrating Asian American Poetry!
Featuring Kundiman Fellows and Friends:
JENNIFER CRYSTAL CHIEN
SUMMI KAIPA and INDIVISIBLE
JAI ARUN RAVINE and IS THIS JANUARY
Celebrating INDIVISIBLE: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry, edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa and Pireeni Sundaralingam, and IS THIS JANUARY by Jai Arun Ravine, from Corollary Press.
MC-ed by MARGARET RHEE and JAI ARUN RAVINE
SATURDAY, MAY 29
8:00 – 10:00 PM
UC BERKELEY CAMPUS
BARBARA CHRISTIAN ROOM, 554 BARROWS HALL, 5TH FLOOR
* Barrows Hall is located just due east of the Telegraph and Bancroft Way intersection.
* From Downtown Berkeley BART, walk south on Shattuck, then east up
Bancroft Way, crossing Fulton, crossing Telegraph Ave. Take a left
down Barrows Lane, which is behind Sproul Hall. Barrows Hall is the second building on your left. (About a 15 minute walk.)
* From Oakland, take the 1 or 1R to Telegraph and Bancroft Way.
* Campus Map: http://berkeley.edu/map/
* Google Map: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=telegraph+ave+and+bancroft+way&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq&hnear=Telegraph+Ave+%26+Bancroft+Way%2C+Berkeley%2C+CA+94704&gl=us&ei=Adz-S5faJJCGNs_r2Ds&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CBQQ8gEwAA
$3 – 10 suggested donation — to benefit Kundiman (no one turned away for lack of funds).
+ SPICY BOOK RAFFLE!
Win a copy of “Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets” edited by Ching-In Chen, Margaret Rhee and Debbie Yee; “Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry” edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Summi Kaipa and Pireeni Sundaralingam; Joseph O. Legaspi’s “Imago;” Eileen Tabios’ “The Thorn Rosary” and more!
About Our Featured Readers and MCs:
Jennifer Crystal Chien is an occasional anarchist whose poems have appeared in over 30 zines and literary journals. Her latest book, transfiguration, is a series of individual portraits on the themes of religion, sex, shadow, faith and transformation.
Summi Kaipa is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, author of three chapbooks and a play, and past editor of Interlope magazine. She is co-editor of the recently released Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. In addition to being a writer and an editor, Kaipa is currently completing her residency in neuropsychology. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband.
The first anthology of its kind, Indivisible brings together forty-nine American poets who trace their roots to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Featuring award-winning poets including Agha Shahid Ali, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and Vijay Seshadri, here are poets who share a long history of grappling with a multiplicity of languages, cultures, and faiths. The poems gathered here take us from basketball courts to Bollywood, from the Grand Canyon to sugar plantations, and from Hindu-Muslim riots in India to anti-immigrant attacks on the streets of post–9/11 America. Showcasing a diversity of forms, from traditional ghazals and sestinas to free verse, experimental writing, and slam poetry, Indivisible presents 141 poems by authors who are rewriting the cultural and literary landscape of their time and their place. (www.indivisibleanthology.com or http://www.uapress.com)
Jai Arun Ravine is a poet who works in dance, film and other visual and performance-related mediums. Jai’s first chapbook, IS THIS JANUARY, has just been released from Corollary Press, thanks to Sueyeun Juliette Lee. Kundiman has empowered Jai to create a space inclusive of Thai American poetics and trans-masculinity. Jai hopes to return to Thailand in the next couple of years to write the experiences of trans-masculine-identified Thais and Thai Americans. http://jaiarunravine.wordpress.com/
Margaret Rhee is a poet, media artist and interdisciplinary scholar. She co-edited the chapbook ‘Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets’ (Achiote Press, 2009) and has published poems in ‘Back Room Live’ and the ‘Berkeley Poetry Review.’ She attended the inaugural Kundiman poetry retreat and fell in love with poetry & there there.
Yael Villafranca is a poet. She is a Kundiman fellow, an organizer with Babae San Francisco/GABRIELA-USA and a student at the University of San Francisco. She has work appearing in Bindlestiff Studio’s upcoming Bakla Show 2010, running the first two weekends of June at the Thick House in San Francisco. You can find more information at https://sites.google.com/site/thebaklashow2010/
Kundiman is an organization dedicated to the creation, cultivation and promotion of Asian American poetry by creating an affirming and rigorous space where Asian American poets can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora. In order to help mentor the next generation of Asian-American poets, Kundiman sponsors an annual Poetry Retreat for emerging Asian American poets. http://www.kundiman.org/
My first chapbook IS THIS JANUARY is now available from Corollary Press for $6!
Written in the latter part of 2005 and into 2006, IS THIS JANUARY is concerned with distance and duration spliced by place and the body, and the impossible consumption of the beloved other’s proximity–an already belated desire. I would like to thank Akilah Oliver, in whose “Eros and Loss” workshop at Naropa much of this text was conceived. To emphasize the topographic and layered nature of the project, the cover is an image of some of the text written on cloth overlayed onto a map of Thailand and six pages of the book are in vellum. I owe many thanks to Sueyeun Juliette Lee for all her amazing work creating these hand-stitched chapbooks!
If you would like a review copy, or can’t afford to purchase one, please contact me.