There sure is a lot to say about my participation in Saturday’s panel and reading, and I am still decompressing.
It’s interesting that the Circle for Asian American Studies, in considering poets for the Marketing Asian American Literature panel chose me and Timothy Yu, given that both of us came into poetry via DIY and “avant garde” or “innovative” poetry communities. Our panel presentations had a lot of good overlap, in discussing our ambivalence towards participating in what I call the Poetic Industrial Complex, what he calls (as per Charles Bernstein) Official Verse Culture, and that we are concerned as API poets about where we fit in those worlds.
What became a point of discussion to which folks kept returning was a criticism of reliance or over-reliance as educators upon anthologies rather than on full length books including poetry collections authored by API writers. Academics were saying that there is something complacent, even lazy, about relying upon an Official Verse Culture anthology to tell us what Asian American Literature is. Anthology seems to rely upon the tropes that we are constantly criticizing, and that are constantly being reproduced by API writers. I had implied this in my presentation; if we API poets are navigating MFA programs and slush piles, what do we do in our work to make it accessible to a wider American readership? And isn’t reproducing tropes some of the strategies we’ve all seen?