April 30, 2010KR Blog

A Poem in My Mailbox, A Family of Writers

Today I wrote my last postcard poem. All month, in celebration of National Poetry Month, a group of Kundiman poets have been writing a poem a day. We write a poem on a postcard, drop it into the mail, and a few days later it reaches another poet across the country.

April29
(April 29 postcard for Jai)

This isn’t the first year we’ve done this. Our efforts in 2007 were highlighted in issue 31 of the online literary journal SHAMPOO in a special section curated by Kundiman Fellow Timothy Yu.

To me, the importance of this project was not just the discipline of writing a poem a day for a month. Nor was it pleasurable simply because I received a little gem in my mailbox regularly. It was both these things, but it was also another lovely manifestation of a community of poets I feel so lucky to be a part of.

received-cards

(More postcard poems here, here, here, and here,)

Although I’ve written my last postcard of the month, it’s not the end of anything. I know more cards will trickle in for a week or so, and then I’ll get a CD from a CD exchange that we’ve also got going on. And there will be announcements on our listserv celebrating our achievements, and a series of posts on Delirious Hem in May by and about Kundiman feminist poets. And we’ll have our annual retreat in June where a whole new batch of Asian American poets will join our community to enlarge and sustain it. And it will go on.

I’ve been part of Kundiman since the second retreat in 2005, and I’ve been amazed at how an idea dreamed up by two poets has grown into an organization that has helped to nurture and develop emerging Asian American poets. I think one of the keys to Kundiman’s lasting success (besides the incredible hard work of the staff and board) has been the community that has flourished around it. It’s a community eagerly sustained by the staff, board, faculty, fellows, and alumni who believe in the need for and value of an organization like this.

I guess I’ve been thinking a lot about the communities of writers that I’m part of lately because I had my last MFA workshop on Wednesday. I feel like this should be a momentous and sad or scary occasion, but mostly, I feel neutral about it.

I think this is because, compared to the other communities that I’ve been part of ??? ones that have arisen from fierce need to have a space to write with others who are somehow like me in my experiences of the world (I’m thinking of my radical queer writing group, Agent 409, and Kundiman in particular) ??? my MFA community always felt a bit tenuous, a little tangled in the bureaucracy of academia, and somewhat stilted by the pressures and politics of The Workshop.

This is not to say that I didn’t make friends or learn an amazing amount from my cohort and professors. I certainly did. And it has been a gift to be able to spend two years concentrating on nothing but poetry. My work has been transformed, and I’ve opened up to so many new ways of thinking about and approaching my writing. But in the end, the sense community I found was different, because our reasons for being there were different.

So now, I’m thankful that I have a poem waiting for me in my mailbox downstairs, thankful to have a reading at Bluestockings to help organize this summer, and thankful to know that I’ll be back to sharing food and writing with friends and fellow writers in an apartment on the Bowery very soon.

(Agent 409 Reading to Launch Zine # 4, 2008)
(Agent 409 Reading to Launch Zine # 4, July 2008, Bluestockings Books)