In today’s conversation with poet Monica Youn we explore what it means to write from a poetics of difference rather than of authenticity, a poetics of deracination rather than identity. Youn’s latest poetry collection From From engages with the history of anti-Asian violence in the United States but is always conscious of the ways this violence is situated structurally, of the racial triangulation of Asian Americans, of how, in Dorothy Wang’s words, “there’s no way to talk about Asian immigrants or the Asian American experience as separate from the Black American experience or the Indigenous experience or the Latinx experience because of the relation to whiteness.” From From engages with everything from Greek mythology (and the construction of the Greek self in relation to the Asian other) to the 1992 L.A. uprising and the murder of Latasha Harlins by Soon Ja Du. And ultimately with what it means to call a place “home” that never seems to see you as part of its history, that is always asking “but where are you from from?”
For the bonus audio archive Monica contributes the reading of two electrifying long poems. The first, “A Guide to Usage: Mine,” was commissioned by the Boston Review for the anthology Poems for Political Disaster (a book conceived in response to the election of Donald Trump). The second is a draft of a poem, one that hasn’t yet fully come together (and which she has never shared before), but was originally meant to be part of the series of magpie parable poems in the new collection. Partially inspired by the landmark 1948 Supreme Court case Shelley v. Kraemer, which abolishes racially-restrictive housing covenants, this never-before-seen poem is called “Parable of the Magpie’s Nest.” To learn how to subscribe to the bonus audio archive (which includes readings from everyone from Victoria Chang to Nikky Finney, from Ada Limón to Dionne Brand), and about the many other potential rewards and benefits of joining the Between the Covers community as a listener-supporter, head over to the show’s Patreon page.
Finally, here is today’s Bookshop.
photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan