Poetry is the next stop on my month-long recommendations of books written by AAPI authors.
Again, I want to state that these are my personal recommendations for books that I’ve read and loved or books that are on my TBR list. This is in no way a comprehensive and exhaustive list of the number of English-language published poetry collections written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry.
Some sites that I recommend checking out if you’re looking for more books written by authors of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and/or prominently feature characters of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are:
I honestly never really appreciated poetry when I was younger. I mean I understood it, to a degree, but I didn’t really feel whichever way about it. I was blasé about it, to be honest. It never struck me in ways that I saw others be affected by poetry. I didn’t connect to it and for the longest time, I thought poetry wasn’t for me. But like everything in life, that changed the older I got.
So let’s get to my recommendations for poetry collections.
milk and honey by Rupi Kaur. Kaur has made history as a South Asian Canadian poet, her first collection, milk and honey, has remained on the New York Times and Canada’s Globe and Mail bestseller list for nearly two years since its publication is astounding. It’s a testament to not only Rupi’s creativity but also her prowess in engaging the millennial generation through the channel of social media and connecting with them through her work, which started off a self-published book. I loved milk and honey. I actually read the entire thing on my 24th birthday and was astounded by it. Each poem and each drawing has a bluntness and a beauty to it, it literally jumps off the page. If you enjoyed reading milk and honey, I’d suggest checking out Rupi’s second poetry collection, the sun and her flowers.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. This was one of the most stunning, surreal, heartbreaking, and honest collections that I’ve ever read. I was moved in ways that I had never been before by poetry. It was a visceral experience reading this book. It grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I set it down after reading it in its entirety. Ocean deserves all the praise, critical acclaim, and awards for his work. I have most of his other poetry collections on my TBR list, including Burning which is one that I really want to read next.
Ruru Reads is a site dedicated to bringing bite-sized poetry, fiction, and non-fiction by Indigenous people and people of colour, centred around those of Pacific Islanders ancestry to readers. The site was founded by Anjulie Te Pohe, a Maori write and poet founded, in 2017. You can find check out the works by various authors on Ruru Reads Website and Anjulie Te Pohe’s work on her website.
Bone Confetti by Muriel Leung. This collection packs a punch, in the best way possible. Muriel is unflinching as she writes about a time of mourning in this collection, about life, death, rebirth in a way few writers have been able to tackle this period of time. Another poet described reading this collection as an explosive and intimate experience.
Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008 by Hua Nguyen. The majority of poems that this Vietnamese-American poet wrote between 1998 and 2008 are amassed in this feminist poetry collection. Anselm Berrigan, who writes the introduction to this collection, describes it Nguyen’s as, “conversational, playful, funny, angry, acutely self-aware, and loaded with sensory information.”
The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers by Bhanu Kapil Rider. This collection tells the story of one young woman’s journey, a coming of age story, through poems about travel and find your way around the world and ones place in it. The collection takes the reader from India to England, to the USA.
Even This Page is White by Vivek Shraya. This South Asian Canadian has broken down boundaries with their work. Even This Page is White is a poignant, bold, and personal interrogation of skin – its origins, functions, and limitations. Shraya’s collection stares directly into everyday racism and splatters it onto the page for all to see. It was even longlisted for Canada Reads 2017, an annual event competition to decide which book every Canadian should read.
Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. This latest collection of poems from Asian-American Nezhukumatathil blends together her beautiful prose with her love of the natural world. It’s an ode to the Earth, an ethos about inclusion, and our place within its vastness. And if my recommendation doesn’t get you to pick up this collection, Roxane Gay says Nezhukumatathil’s, “writes about the natural world and how we live in it, filling each poem, each page with a true sense of wonder.”
Those are my recommendations for poetry written by AAPI authors. Feel free to leave your own recommendations below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram. Be on the lookout for more recommendations posts for books written by AAPI authors this month.
Thanks for reading!