Orbit: The Asian American Issue
Volume 15:3, Summer 2014
Over the last decade, Washington DC’s poetry renaissance has brought more literary voices of color together. The birth of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) performance series such as Sulu DC and Subcontinental Drift and journals like The Asian American Literary Review from University of Marylandas well as venues and organizations like Busboys and Poets, BloomBars and Split This Rockhave resulted in great attention to the growing AAPI presence in the city and its literary arts.
When Regie first published a poem in an Asian American anthology 20 years ago, it was in a collection entitled On A Bed Of Rice: An Asian-American Erotic Feast (with a naked woman and her small breasts blurred by a smokey cover). It is a new day and AAPI voices should not be marginalized by fruits, grains or gender. We have come a long way from the railroad, the boat, the wok and the curry.
Although only slightly less than 4% of DCs total population, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the DC Metro area, as the 2000 US Census revealed. According to the DC Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, the number of people of AAPI descent who relocated to the area in the last decade increased by approximately 30%.
Our selection of poets reflects the diversity of that growth, with new immigrants presented alongside poets whose families have been in the US for many generations. Poets in this issue can trace their ancestry to China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Burma, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
This collection celebrates the passion of slam, theater, experimental and narrative voices. From the contents of a grandmothers purse to a father’s shift to a vegan menu in his Japanese restaurant. From a Hindu prayer to immigrant stories and the distance between daughter and father. From the mask of Facebook to the heat of Quezon City and a lover’s sheets.
We chose to title the issue “Orbit” because of the prevailing themes of cycles: celestial bodies, family blood, revolutions, the homeland of heartbeat and loss. We moved from the micro toward the macro, arranging our poems to grow from the small to the large, from the cellular level to the cosmos. We started with JoAnn Balingit‘s Frac/tions, a self-examination of biracial genetics, a metaphoric cracking of the shell, an awakeningand then finally ending with Jude Paul Dizon‘s poems: “Quezon City,” two bodies “sweating in a pink sunset,” and “Orion’s Belt,” a Whitman-like call to be swept away in love and universal solidarity.
These poems orbit the expansive realm of AAPI voices in our community. They are potent spheres of emotional power and self-reflection. They are wonderfully crafted by stellar talents who bring us closer to what Asianness means in the new century. As Dizon concludes, Let us fill the skies.
Regie Cabico and Gowri Koneswaran |
Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer, having won the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam in 1993 and taking top prizes in the 1993, 1994 and 1997 National Poetry Slams. As a theater artist, he received the 2006 New York Innovative Theater Award for Best Performance Art Production as part of the New York Neo-Futurist's production of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. His solo shows have been presented at Dixon Place, Joe's Pub, The Public Theater, Seattle Fringe Festival, Contact Theater (Manchester, England) and The Humana Theater Festival. He is a teaching artist at The Kennedy Center and performs his work throughout North America and the UK. He received several fellowships from the DC Commission for the Arts & Humanities, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Television credits include NPR's Snap Judgement, and HBO's Def Poetry Jam. His latest solo play, Godiva Dates and One Night Stands, received critical acclaim at the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival. Cabico was a featured poet at the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Cabico is co-editor of the anthologies Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry (Lowbrow Press, 2013) and Poetry Nation: The North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry (Vehicule Press, 1998), and his work appears in the anthologies Short Fuse, Poetry Slam, The Spoken Word Revolution, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. He is co-director of the Capturing Fire National Queer Poetry Slam And Summit. To read more by this author: Regie Cabico: Winter 2007; Regie Cabico's Intro to the Split This Rock Issue, Winter 2008; Regie Cabico: Audio Issue; Regie Cabico on DC Slam: Literary Organizations Issue; Regie Cabico: Langston Hughes Tribute Issue.
Gowri Koneswaran is a queer Tamil American writer, performing artist, teacher, and lawyer. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, environmental protection, the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused in the U.S., and justice accountability in Sri Lanka. She is poetry coordinator at the nonprofit arts organization BloomBars and a fellow of the Asian American literary organization Kundiman. Previously, she was senior poetry editor at Jaggery and co-editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. has co-authored two peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and her poetry has been published in Bourgeon and Lantern Review. Koneswaran has performed her poetry at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Capital Fringe Festival, and universities in the U.S. and Canada. To read more by this author: Four Poems, Spring 2011, and Langston Hughes Issue.