Asian Americans have been contributing to U.S. literature for over a century, but their role did not gain recognition in mainstream culture or academia until the 1970s. Since then, over 50 Asian American studies programs, centers, and institutes have been established on university campuses, and organizations such as Kundiman and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, presses, and journals have helped to further cultivate Asian American poetry. As a result, Asian American writers may no longer feel compelled to write in particular traditional or protest modes or represent the external cultural labels pressed upon them. In her 2004 introduction to Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, Victoria Chang writes, “new Asian American poets have captured the power of the past but have ventured into new territories and discovered, created, and revealed new voices and styles.”
The following poets in the U.S. have emerged out of a broad range of Eastern and Western influences. Many are first- to fourth-generation Asian American poets whose heritages (part or whole) originate from South or East Asia. Some were born in the U.S., and others are expatriates or poets-in-exile. They all help to broaden our understanding of contemporary poetry in the U.S.
This collection is intended to introduce new readers to Asian American poets and to help those who are interested in learning more about these poets and their poetry. It is an ongoing project to make visible the vastness and variety of U.S. literary culture and to expand our notions of human experience in our time.
Please contact us if you wish to make suggestions for additions to this sampler.
The editors would like to thank Monica Youn, Raza Ali Hasan, and Ravi Shankar for their help in compiling this selection, and to those readers who write in to help us improve this feature. (Last updated June 2015.)
POETS (in alphabetical order):
A look at the landays written by Afghanistan women
Chen Li on Chinese language differences in poems from Mainland China and Taiwan
Jaswinder Bolina on the issue of obligation to racially identify one’s poems, as a first-generation minority poet.
A survey of recent Asian Pacific American literary journals
Cathy Park Hong on the fallacy of poetic “voice” and the failures of language
Barbara Jane Reyes covers an event exploring Asian American feminist poetics
Timothy Yu makes a case for Asian American studies
Major Jackson on the Asian American Writers’ Workshop
AUDIO AND VIDEO:
Li-Young Lee reads his poems on PBS NewsHour
Lawson Inada discusses the U.S.’s WWII Japanese internment camps
Linh Dinh catalogues the myriad grades of Vietnamese chuckles
Documentary on the poetry of the women of Afghanistan
Jeffrey Yang discusses nature poetry on PBS NewsHour
Marilyn Chin reads her poem “The Floral Apron”
Jennifer Chang reads her poems on the Poetry magazine podcast
Li-Young Lee on valentines and the difficulties of love and childhood
Karen An-hwei Lee reads her poems on the Poetry magazine podcast
Cathy Park Hong discusses her poems with the Poetry editors