Ethnic Voices Poetry Series

2008-2009 Series

Missouri Arts CouncilPartially supported by funding from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Books by all poets are available in the University Book Store.

Victoria Chang

October 2, 2008
Kansas City Library
14 W. 10th Street
Kansas City, MO

Reception at 6:30pm
Presentation at 7:00 p.m.
Book signing follows

Chang's work has appeared in many literary journals, and she won a Ploughshares Cohen Award for best poem of the year. Her first book of poetry, Circle, won the Crab Orchard Review Award Series in Poetry and the Association of Asian American Book Studies Award and was also a finalist for the 2005 PEN Center USA Literary Award and the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award. The University of Georgia has just published her second book, Salvinia Molesta, and she edited the anthology, Asian American Poetry: the Next Generation.

Salvinia Molesta

—Known as the world's worst weed, it lives in water and doubles
its numbers every two days. In two months, its ferns can number
67 million. It reproduces easily, not by spores, but by the spreading
of plant fragments that break off when disturbed.

How far will they swim, grappling outward for more?
Their coils climb upward too, into chains,
and downward underwater, their filamentous fronds twist
in egg-shaped sporocarps.
Miles and miles of them diving and driving.
Eventually, they block sunlight from everything below
and fish burn in hunger and scum.
I often watched Frank Quattrone through the glass
in his office, he liked speakerphone—
talked to walls, his desk, wisterias and wild asters outside.
His striped shirt with the good
seams, always pressed. Sometimes he picked up the putter
while talking. What patience
he had putting the pocked ball into the machine over and over.
I wanted a blue shirt.
I wanted objects but not their shadows. I wanted a house
with a field of lawn, blades
and weeds growing in all directions. What if what had
happened could happen again?

While in Kansas City, Aimee was interviewed by Robert Stewart for the NPR radio program, New Letters on the Air. Please consult the New Letters Schedule for information regarding the broadcast of that interview.

Victoria Chang web site

Sean Hill

November 16, 2008
Kansas City Library, Plaza Branch
Reception 1:30
Presentation at 2:00 p.m.
Book signing follows

A native of Milledgeville, Georgia, Sean Hill has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bush Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, and the University of Wisconsin, and work-study scholarships to Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Indiana Review, Ploughshares, Pleiades, Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, and other literary journals, and in the anthologies Blues Poems, Gathering Ground, and The Ringing Ear. In March 2008 the University of Georgia Press published his first book, Blood Ties & Brown Liquor. Hill is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

Words Like Rivers
from Blood Ties & Brown Liquor

At bars we banter over brown liquor,
Irish Scotch Canadian—
none of these my people.
Whiskeys, brown with undertones—
reds and yellows—
arranged behind bars.
————All I want is a swallow,
————but I just broke this bottle.
————Lord all I need’s a swallow,
————but I done broke my bottle.
————Broken bottle blues—wallowing
————in them broken bottle blues.

Black men bibulous—
bilious like me belching
the morning after whiskey—
stream words like rivers
and families riven over
————My old lady’s yellow
————and round like the moon.
————I say my lady’s full
————and yellow like the moon.
————And Lord I can’t afford her
————and that baby due in June.

Black men come and go
like clouds, lucky numbers,
and dizzy spells—
my father has always stayed.
He met his old man when he
was becoming a man at sixteen.
————I say blood ties is
————like liquor and water.
————I say blood tides rise
————with liquor and water,
————And Lord knows I want
————to shoot my father.

I have an older brother I think
of about as much as my bones—
long ago broken and mended.
Might feel them
come the pain of age
and rainy days.
————The field’s dry as a bone,
————I been missing the rain.
————Bone dry, the sun be done
————burned the corn and cane.
————Lord, if not rain then let
————me see my brother again.

While in Kansas City, Sean was interviewed by Angela Latham for the NPR radio program, New Letters on the Air. Please consult the New Letters Schedule for information regarding the broadcast of that interview.

Sean Hill web site

Francisco Aragon with an introduction by The Latino Writers Collective

December 4, 2008
Park University
McCoy Meetin' House, 6:30 p.m.
Reception and book signing follows

Aragon has authored Puerta Del Sol, served as editor for The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, and published poetry in many anthologies and journals. He serves as the director of Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at the University of Notre Dame where he oversees, among other projects, Momotombo Press, the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and Latino Poetry Review.

Francisco Aragon web site

Love Poem — Francisco Aragon

Just let the San Andreas
stay put, keeping this tunnel
intact, enough to amble

out of it, past Louie's Dim
Sum a Saturday afternoon,
breeze detectable off

the bay—visible in the distance,
carrying with it the smells
of open air markets:

crab freshly caught
and seahorses piled
in bins along Stockton...

or Jack, strolling out of the tube
connecting Polk Gulch
and North Beach—on his way

to Aquatic Park to spread
the Sporting Green
on his favorite patch of grass...
He is ferrying the portable
radio to his ear
listening for the count

in the bottom of the ninth
at Candlestick,
begins to smooth

the pages with his palms
before he sits
to keep it dry: the split

seat of his pants

for Jack Spicer (1925-1965)

The Latino Writers Collective, based in the Kansas City metropolitan area, organizes and coordinates projects for the larger community, especially to showcase national and local Latino writers and provide role models and instruction to Latino youth. Its mission is to foster an environment where the voices of Latino students, blue collar workers, professionals, and homemakers can finally be heard, sharing their experience and vision with a broad audience. Performing embers of the Collective include José Faus; Linda Rodriguez; Maria Vazquez Boyd; Gabriela M. Lemmons; and Gloria Martinez Adams. Work by members of the Collective appears in the recently published anthology, Primera Pagina.

Howard Schwartz

March 5, 2009
Park University
McCoy Meetin' House
6:30 p.m.

Howard Schwartz teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has published three books of poetry, Vessels, Gathering the Sparks and Sleepwalking Beneath the Stars, and several books of fiction, including The Four Who Entered Paradise and Adam's Soul. His 10 children's books have garnered many awards, including the Sydney Taylor Book Award, 1992; the National Jewish Book Award and the Aesop Award of the American Folklore Society, both in 1996; the Anne Izard Storyeller's Choice Award for 1998 and the 1999 Honor Title of the Storytelling World Awards; and the National Jewish Book Award and The Aesop Prize of the American Folklore Society, both in 2000. His book Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, won the National Jewish Book Award in 2005, and his children's book Before You Were Born won the Koret Jewish Book Award the same year.

Howard Schwartz web site

Breathing in the Dark - © 2008 by Howard Schwartz

So many months breathing in the dark—
the scent of underground springs
sustains you,
a hidden moon beckons you
to grow ripe.

While you sleep,
an angel whispers the secrets of creation,
showing you
every branch of the tree of life.
you will dimly recall
all that she revealed
of roots
and branches
and breath.

You wake,
a lilac
waiting for the wind,
a sensual stone,
a leaf
thirsty for a kiss.
From now on
you will wake with this thirst
every morning
and drink in
until the crickets
rub their wings together,

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

March 26, 2009
Kansas City Library
14 W. 10th Street
Kansas City, MO
Reception at 6:00pm
Presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Book signing follows

Aimee Nezhukumatathil was born in Chicago to a Filipina mother and a South Indian father. She attended Ohio State University where she received her B.A. in English and her M.F.A. in poetry and creative non-fiction. Aimee was the 2000-01 Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing at UW-Madison and is now associate professor of English at State University of New York-Fredonia, where she teaches creative writing and environmental literature.

She is the author of At the Drive-In Volcano, winner of the Balcones Prize which honors the most outstanding book of poetry each year, and Miracle Fruit, which won Foreword Magazine's Poetry Book of the Year Award and was chosen by poet Gregory Orr for the Tupelo Press First Book Prize. Miracle Fruit was also named co-winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award, and finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Prize, The Glasgow Prize, and the Asian American Literary Award in poetry.

Other awards for her writing include the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, The Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest, an Associated Writing Programs Intro Award in creative non-fiction and the Pushcart Prize. Her poems are anthologized in Language for a New Century (WW Norton); Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief (Bedford St. Martin's); 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday (HarperCollins); Seriously Funny: Poems about Love, God, War, Art, Sex, Death, Madness, and Everything Else (Univ. of Georgia); Beacon Best Writing of 2000; Babaylan: Filipina and Filipina-American Writing; Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor Writing; Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation; and Eros Pinoy. Her chapbook, Fishbone, won the Snail's Pace Press Prize and her first full-length collection, Miracle Fruit, Poems and essays are published or forthcoming in FIELD, The Antioch Review, New England Review, Black Warrior Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Tin House, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Chelsea, Mid-American Review, The Southeast Review, River Styx, Beloit Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, Crab Orchard Review, Virginia Quarterly, Slate, and North American Review.
Aimee was named the SUNY-Fredonia's Hagan Scholar in 2005 for a junior faculty member with distinguished scholarship-- the 1st time a member of the SUNY-Fredonia English Department has won this award. In April of 2006, she also received the SUNY's Drescher Award and SUNY-wide Chancellor's Award for Scholarship and Creative Activities for excellence in her record of publications, art production and performance.

While in Kansas City, Aimee was interviewed by Angela Latham for the NPR radio program, New Letters on the Air. Please consult the New Letters Schedule for information regarding the broadcast of that interview.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil website

By the Light of a Single Worm – Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Land snails the size of hockey pucks
slime a shimmer along craggy roots. A mantis
wipes its eyes with her forelegs like she's taking
off a new sweater. A certain earthworm
luminesces so strongly here, a zoology professor
once wrote a whole lecture by the light
of a single worm. My hand washes blue
and tiny hairs above the knuckle look electric.
Soil becomes glitter, even the flattest stone
turns into cabochon. When I bathe, a lizard
shaped like a cassava root with blue eyes
spies on me from the corner of the ceiling. I've seen
them fall on dinner tables, into noodle puddings,
the cold ceramic of the kitchen sink, and I just know
I will be next. I turn off the light, knowing that
in darkness they run along baseboards, savoring
picture frames until sunrise. I finish my bath
in darkness with only the glow from the garden,
listen for any evidence of a tell-tale splash.

Craig Santos Perez

June 17 , 2009
Kansas City Library
14 W. 10th Street
Kansas City, MO
Reception at 6:00pm
Presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Book signing follows

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), is a co-founder of Achiote Press and author of From Unincorporated Territory (Tinfish Press, 2008). His poetry, essays, reviews, and translations have appeared (or are forthcoming) in New American Writing, Pleiades, The Denver Quarterly, The Colorado Review, and ZYZZYVA, among others. He received an MFA from the University of San Francisco and is currently a PhD candidate in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley.

from descending plumeria
for my cousin, renee

(it's renee, my auntie jeanette cried into the phone) renee. had moved to san francisco after high school to become an artist. (that night) she was a passenger on a motorcycle. at an intersection. a car ran a red light and never stopped the motorcycle fell. on her body we waited. by the phone across. blue eyes of the pacific. (that night) there was an early season storm. we took the usual precautions: boarded the windows. (i don't want the kids to go, my mom said when she returned from my sister marla's room to check on her) unplugged the gas stove, placed towels on the bottom of the doors. (they need to go, my dad insisted, for charlie) and moved the furniture away. from the windows. i don't remember the name. of the typhoon, but it was. mapped and monitored.


1 Dichoso y taotao, ni ti mamomocat gui pinagat y manaelaye, ni y ti sumasaga gui chalan manisao, ni y ti matatachong gui siyan ayo sija y manmanmofefea.
2 Lao guiya lay Jeova, ayo y minagofña, ya y layña jajaso, jaane yan puenge.
3 Ya taegüijeja y trongcon jayo ni y matanme gui oriyan sadog, ya guaja tinegchaña gui tiempoña, ya y jagonña ti umalayo; ya todo y finatinasña mumemegae.
4 Lao ti taegüine y manaelaye; lao parejo yan y paja ni y güinaefe ni y manglo.
5 Sa enao na ti mangajujulo y manaelaye gui sentensia; ni y manisao gui y inetnon manunas.
6 Sa si Jeova jatungo y chalan manunas: lao y chalan manaelaye ufanmalingo.

we are cursed, in the path of the ungodly [...] the blessed sinners make counsel
their law is our Lord [...] a colony of day and night
a tree planted in sand; the river is a military landfill [...] no fruit, withered leaf
in the ungodly wind [...] we become wheat
to their congress of sinners, judgement, and sentence [...]
will the Landlord of our path ever perish?

Purchase these titles in the University Book Store:

Salvinia Molesta
Puerta Del Sol
The Wind Shifts
Tree of Souls
Leaves from the Garden of Eden
At the Drive-In Volcano

Financial Assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.