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Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry

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Christine Wong Yap. Untitled (one half gallon), 2006, paper, 8 x 8 x 1 inches / 20 x 20 x 2.5 cm.

 

I’m very happy about the recent publication of “Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry,” a folio I guest edited for The Margins. The folio presents writing and art (some of it previously unpublished) by Christine Wong Yap, Debora Kuan, Eileen Tabios, Jennifer Hayashida, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Shin Yu Pai, Walter K. Lew, O Chung, and John Yau alongside visual works by such artists as Yves Klein, Diane Arbus, Kiki Smith, and Toshiko Takaezu.

This is from the beginning of my introduction:

If not already visual artists themselves, the poets collected here have extremely close ties to the visual arts and visual culture, from painting to film to installation: they write about art, in both critical and creative modes, and collaborate widely with artists. It should be no surprise, then, that the diverse and vibrant work in this portfolio, some of which was specially commissioned for The Margins, often yokes text and image together in surprising ways and represents ekphrastic poetry in some of its most advanced and innovative forms. In fact, some of these pieces seem to exceed the genre of ekphrasis altogether; for example, Christine Wong Yap brings together sculpture and concrete poetry in Cloud to form a delightfully baroque thought balloon, highlighting the fact that language is, in her words, both “physical and immaterial.”

When engaging with the tradition of ekphrastic poetry, these poets frequently strive to go beyond, to quote Leo Spitzer’s classic definition, “the reproduction, through the medium of words, of sensuously perceptible objets d’art.”

Michael Leong is the author of the poetry books e.s.p., Cutting Time with a Knife, Who Unfolded My Origami Brain?, and Words on Edge. His creative work has been anthologized in THE &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, Best American Experimental Writing 2018, and Bettering American Poetry, Volume 3. His co-translation, with Ignacio Infante, of Vicente Huidobro’s long poem Sky-Quake: Tremor of Heaven is forthcoming from co•im•press in late 2019. His critical monograph Contested Records: The Turn to Documents in Contemporary North American Poetry is forthcoming from the University of Iowa Press in May 2020. He has received grants from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts.

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