Happy Chinese new year!
I’m often far away from family during this time, but this year, I went with my family to Dallas to see my grandmother and other family I haven’t seen in ages. Have been thinking a lot of elders and transitions and what we receive from those who come before us.
I was asked to submit to a journal recently and pair my work with another poet who I considered an elder/who has inspired me. What was my poetic lineage? Who are my grandmothers of inspiration?
Five years ago, I would have said Yuri Kochiyama. A recent meditation about this on Delirious Hem‘s blog.
Now, I say Yuri. But also Marilyn Nelson, who gives poets a resting place so they can deliver their words to the world as Soul Mountain Retreat. Or Sharon Bridgforth whose ‘Delta Dandi’ made me sit up and say, you can do that? Wow. And, of course, my editor Eloise Klein Healy, who created Arktoi Books, a lesbian imprint of Red Hen Press so that queer women could have access to the conversation and sit at the table.
Two years ago, I got an e-mail on my 30th birthday which said something like, “I want to publish your manuscript” and I immediately closed my laptop in the coffeeshop and cried. I didn’t call anyone. I waited for Eloise to e-mail me back and say, oh, oops, that was actually a different writer that I meant to write. It took me a full day for me to call her back.
I thought about this as I sat at a table outside last night at the end of a 5-hour-long meeting with a close friend who I have been working with to save Riverside Chinatown and three young Asian American women we have been mentoring who are gearing up for a huge student action next week. The question on the table was — why are we doing this? Why is it important to us, to you, to me? The answers which came — that we have to fight to preserve our history and to know what’s come before us. How no one has given it to us or taught us, how we have to uncover it for ourselves and hold onto it.
Tonight, I’ll be reading with Eloise at the LMU Extension Spring Poetry Series (info below) & be meditating on honoring what’s come before.
Thank you for listening/reading, and for more to come.
LMU EXTENSION SPRING POETRY SERIES ~
Thursday February 18th 8pm, Sign-In for the open reading at 7:45
University Hall, Room 1859: Please enter off Lincoln Boulevard near the fountain. Just past the information kiosk, turn right into P2-P3, free student parking, use middle elevators to the left of parking entrance, go to the to the G level. When you exit elevators take an immediate left through a silver door and follow the signs to the right to 1859.
Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic and a multi-genre, border-crossing writer. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a Kundiman, Macondo and Lambda Fellow. A community organizer, she has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston. Her work has been recently published in journals such asBorderSenses, Rio Grande Review, Poemeleon, Cha, OCHO, Iron Horse Literary Review, Water~Stone Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Verdad and Chroma. A co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, forthcoming from South End Press, Ching-In is currently in the process of editing an anthology on gender, militarism and war from the perspective of women and gender-non-conforming people of color. In Riverside, California, Ching-In is a member of the Save Our Chinatown Committee, a grassroots organization focused on the preserving the archaelogical heritage of Riverside Chinatown.
Eloise Klein Healy, Founding Chair of Antioch University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, is also the co-founder of ECO-ARTS, an eco-tourism/arts venture and founding editor of ARKTOI BOOKS, an imprint of Red Hen Press. Her latest collection of poems is The Islands Project: Poems For Sappho.