karen * tei * yamashita


Update on Los Angeles adventures… If you plan to attend the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in late April, I’ll be reading from my latest works, with gratitude to Elena and Ann for organizing the Poetry Stage at this annual event. 

A partial list of L.A. Times Festival of Books appears below from the “L” section of their line-up.  There will be an appearance by the adorable celebrity puppet, “Lamb Chop!!”   

Jessica Hagedorn, Karen Tei Yamashita, Elena Karina Byrne, and Yiyun Li will participate, too, as will my new poet-friend Teresa Chuc (representing New Poets of the American West) and actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who writes children’s books.   

I’ll also read & lecture at California State University, Fullerton on Thursday, April 28 as a featured speaker for National Poetry Month and Asian Pacific Heritage Month.  Many thanks to Jie & her colleagues for organizing the event – so efficient, courteous & poetry-friendly!

Prayer:  Gratitude for open doors to share….what?  Love?  “Connectedness?”  Community?  A listening heart or hearts?  Dialogue?

All of the above, I s’pose, and more…….

swan * scythe

One thing I love about my little college is the library, where I’ve spent hours upstairs & downstairs browsing the faith-based collections, especially spiritual autobiographies.

A fig tree with huge elephant-ear-leaves shades our stone-and-glass edifice.

If you walk quickly alongside the tinted mirror-glass, your image vanishes into shelves and shelves of books…. this tickles me to no end!  If I had the gift of “disapparation,” I’d love to vanish into books.

Last month, I borrowed Julian of Norwich’s Book of Showings, this edition.  I taught a fragment of Julian’s text in the first phase of our British Lit Survey course this past autumn.

See Julian’s profile under “300 Women Who Changed the World.”

Swan Scythe Press holds a dear place in my heart since it published my first chapbook almost 10 years ago.  Please submit to the annual chapbook contest.

To see Swan Scythe’s diverse & beautiful books, click here.

Prayer: “All shall be well/ and all shall be well/
… and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian

sei * shōnagon

Delightful things in January, à la Sei Shōnagon (c. 966-1017).

Roses the size of dim sum dishes (delightful) not yet “dead-headed” on my little college campus.  Blueberries for sale in winter.  Singing “happy birthday” in Mandarin Chinese while washing plates & glasses just because I feel like it (today is no one’s birthday that I know).  Roses are forming bright red-orange rosehips (delightful)… I’m tempted to pluck ’em to make rosehips tea (simple & delightful recipe here, plus rosehips jam).

Sore throat (not delightful) after lecturing on British Romantic ekphrastic poetry (delightful) then drinking hot chamomile tea with licorice root, slippery elm, & ginger (delightful) … and sore throat vanished (very delightful).  On-ramp to I-5 Fwy closed (ugh, not delightful at all) but I found an alternate junction (delightful). Grateful for 70-degree weather when one can wear light dresses “like summer in the midst of winter,” Marguerite Duras once wrote (delightful).


Prayer:  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

amy * uyematsu

Los Angeles adventures continue at this week’s MLA Convention, where I’ll preside & present on the session, “Transnational Feminist Spaces.”

Our brilliant panelists are Josephine Park, author of Apparitions of Asia (Oxford U. Press) and Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; erin Khuê Ninh, author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter (NYU Press) and a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara; see my August interview with Professor Ninh here.

Our respondent is the splendid poet Sandra Lim, author of the award-winning Lovelist Grotesque (Kore Press) and a professor at the University of Massachusetts.  Professor Lim reads on the audio poetry CD, Autumnal: A Collection of Elegies.

On a special excursion to the Huntington Library, fifty of us will go behind the scenes to learn about digital preservation &  material book culture.  Prior to university teaching, I worked part-time in archives & special collections, so book preservation – in any shape, spirit, or form – fascinates me.   Many thanks to the MLA for arranging this!



On Saturday, January 22, I’ll read with Amy Uyematsu (amazing poet-mathematician!) and poets of Indivisible: Anthology of South Asian American Poetry at the Japanese National Museum in Los Angeles.  Thanks to Pireeni Sundaralingam for coordinating this event!


Prayer:  Heartfelt gratitude to poet-friends who share their time, love & vision freely & with marvelous grace.  This world is a brighter ‘scape!

denise * levertov




In Poetry as Prayer: Denise Levertov, Murray Bodo describes six ways to “pray” poems:  “Prayer involves discipline, perseverance, and a humility that comes from knowing that you cannot control God… You learn to pray by praying, and you learn to appreciate poetry by reading it” (91).

1. Be Committed.

Denise Levertov’s commitment to her art was a true vocation.  She made hard decisions throughout her life in order to protect and nourish her writing.  (92)

2. Try to Write as a Way of Prayer.

What I learned from Denise was to trust my words to take me where I would not have gone without them; to trust the first word to lead to the first line, the second line, and then on to stanza after stanza.  Prayer-words will likewise lead to silences and pauses not unlike those blank spaces on the page, those pauses at the end of lines… (95)

Denise Levertov was one of the most intellectually honest people I have ever met.  She would not say what she did not believe, simply in order to please another.  She trusted the truth, and her poems shimmer with a truthful articulation that frees her work from faddish posturing. (98)

4. Plan Well.

Without a course of action to pursue in the face of injustice, Levertov said, people only become frustrated and angry – another kind of violence. (100)

5. Believe in Memory.

The injunction, “Remember,” is one of the most frequent exhortations in the Bible, for it is in remembering the works of God that we are able to define who we are and see the world around us with God’s eye.  (102)

6. Know that Faith is a Journey.

For faith is a gift given to those who are open to receiving it.


Prayer:  Lines from Levertov’s “Making Peace.”

“A line of peace might appear / if we restructured the sentences our lives are making…./peace, a presence, / … might pulse then, / stanza by stanza into the world, / each act of living/ one of its words….”

emily * dickinson

Today is Miss Dickinson’s birthday!  Happiness.  Years ago, when Amherst College opened the Homestead & Evergreens to guests, I took a summer day to visit.


Although I grew up in Massachusetts, my childhood forays into the Berkshires were rare, so this was quite a treat!

Here is Jorie Graham’s essay on her visit to Amherst.


Thanks to Logan Esdale, who introduced me to poet & visual artist  Jen Bervin‘s “The Dickinson Fascicles,” based on Miss Dickinson’s “variant words:”

The variant words are preceeded by the + mark and often appear listed in clusters after the poem but before the horizontal line Dickinson drew to signal the end of a poem. To read the variants, you move backwards through the poem trying to find the point of insertion, the corollary word or phrase (preceeded by a +) that the variants refer to in the poem. They are sometimes quite close in meaning to the marked word, but in other instances, they are as far ranging as “+ world, + selves + sun.”


Prayer:  “Faith — is the pierless bridge / Supporting what We see / Unto the Scene that we do not — / Too slender for the eye.”  ~ Emily Dickinson


melusine * woman

Here are two new poems at Melusine: Woman of the 21st Century, edited by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom.  Melusine is “an on-line journal of literature and art by women (but not only women) about women (and just about everything else).”  I love the artwork in this issue.

Deep Sea Dolls

Deep Sea Dolls by Lindsey Bucklew


This past Saturday, I  had the pleasure of sharing poetry with a warm-hearted audience who emerged on a rainy afternoon in San Diego.  Sandra Alcosser, Teresa Chuc, Craig Cotter, Seretta Martin, and I read from Lowell Jaeger’s anthology.  Many of Sandra’s M.F.A. students attended the reading & volunteered to read aloud poems from the anthology, too.


Prayer: For students… who are our future, as Terry Tempest Williams says.


poetry * foundation

Poetry Magazine: November 2010

Larry Bradley · Billy Collins · Brooklyn Copeland · Jeramy Dodds · Miriam Bird Greenberg · Donald Hall · Nate Klug · Lance Larsen · Karen An-hwei Lee · Giacomo Leopardi · Rebecca Lindenberg · Dora Malech · Wesley McNair · Joshua Mehigan · Samuel Menashe · Christopher Shannon · Alan Shapiro · Derek Sheffield · Brian Swann · D. H. Tracy · David Yezzi

…and this is me:  Poetry audio cast.

in * divisible

Another Los Angeles adventure is added to my list of outings: I will share my work at the Japanese American National Museum in January 2011, a couple weeks after the MLA Convention where I’m chairing a session on Transnational Feminist Spaces.   

Pireeni Sundaralingam, who is curating the museum event, invited me & several other poets.  She is a co-editor of Indivisible: Anthology of South Asian American Contemporary Poetry (University of Arkansas, 2010), the first anthology of its kind.