Experimental & Form Poetry
I Never Knew
I am Thai, Hawaiian, Japanese, Scottish, and Cherokee.
But in my mind, all people see is a Twinkie.
Filing my client’s Chi-Man Ku’s paperwork,
I addressed the label last name, first:
Laughter came easy at his expense.
My father never taught me to drive.
He said Asians had bad peripherals.
The DMV failed me twice,
convinced it was my eyes and not my experience.
Once, an Asian poet called me offensive,
and I told him it was just a joke,
like the word “chink” from a boy I had a crush on in high school,
or the way my classmates pulled at the sides of their eyes.
My father refers to Asians as Chinamen.
He is not Asian.
I am not adopted.
I resemble the “chinky eyed masochist” who left him.
My mother sinned all over Bangkok.
Brought to this country to babysit her new father’s children,
I was a mistake made while using my father to escape.
She never loved him but credits him with her new life outside of her
My father loves me, but when he looks at me, I know he sees her.
The girl who used him and disappeared with his kindergartner.
He fought for me, and when I was ten, I chose with the mediator to
She tells me to this day, she “let me” go.
I was born into America, no cultural residue.
From a generation of interracial unions and mixed babies.
I have a mouth that will cut like a katana.
I was not taught to be weak and submissive.
I am neither exotic nor eager to please like a geisha.
Refusing to sit still and look pretty,
I find myself sitting still and trying to look pretty,
and for that, I am a contradiction.
“Reading Rainbow” taught me I could be
anything I wanted to be when I grew up.
It taught me which box I could check,
to allow me to be white collar instead of red dress.
As a child, I learned to loathe this dark hair, this skin.
Through my slanted eyes I only saw my father’s view.
His ignorance and anger at my mother assaulting me instead of her.
I have created an image onstage for people who look nothing like me.
I am the token “me love you long time” girl.
I make jokes, and the jokes turn to hypocrisy.
I have refused to get revolutionary,
yet hold my fist high for Asian Pride.
I tattoo the word “Poetry” on my back in Thai,
but don’t recognize the script.
I have worn a t-shirt emblazoned “Everyone Loves an Asian Girl,”
but never loved that description of me.
I am sorry.
I have always stood under the sunlight for my freckles to radiate.
I have never let the Pacific Islands touch my toes.
I have never had the patience to learn about Thailand.
It is a piece of me, no matter how much I joke.
I never knew how sharp the words were that dug through my skin.
I never knew the effect I could have on people that look like me.
I never knew how disrespectful I was to my mother and my lineage,
Or how Asian Americans could see me as a racist.
Kristina Robertson is a confessional spoken word performer and writer residing in Morgan Hill, California. She was a consecutive member of the San Jose Poetry Slam Team. Her spoken word poetry and journey was recently shared on a podcast publication by Chopsticks Alley Art.
(Helen at nine months)
Jared M. Campbell is a corporate lawyer in New York City. His poetry has been published in The Oxford Magazine, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, The Lyric, and others.
room by room
rengay by Ingrid Bruck & Julie Naslund
bare November swings
between banked clouds
susurration at dawn
ancestors in the kitchen
living in the cellar
she lays the chimney
loses twin boys
born in the west
four generations of sisters
and then a son
building the house room by room
only man’s work
hands in the dirt
loamy garden beside the lake
landscape as story
Ingrid Bruck lives in Amish country in Pennsylvania, a landscape that inhabits her poetry.
Julie Naslund lives and writes in the high desert of central Oregon.
Better than Starbucks began wholly as a creation in my mind. Now the wonderful collaboration of dedicated editors is creating a magazine that I could have only dreamed about when I was starting out as a one person organization.
Having said that, there are no direct connections between U Penn, Al Filreis, KWH (Kelly Writers House,) ModPo (Modern & Contemporary American Poetry,) or any of the actual affiliated programs to ModPo and this magazine, other than I have been a part of ModPo for several years now. There is, however, a strong spiritual and intellectual connection between BTS and ModPo.
If I had not gotten involved in the larger community of ModPo, I don’t think I would have restarted a literary publication. I am certain I would not have added a Formal & Rhyming Page, and probably not a Translations page. I have a pretty narrow preference for poetry, but the course and the people at ModPo have expanded my view of poetry to the point that I decided if I could find good people to help me do it, we would make BTS as broad of a source of styles and genres as possible.
Thus, it seems fitting that we dedicate a page to my fellow students at ModPo, and/or anyone who wants to share experimental poems. The thing about experiments is, they often fail, but as the point is to learn, not to create perfection, even failed experiments in the lab or on this page, will offer something for us, if we will find it. and when the experiment doesn't fail . . . well, you will see! - Anthony Watkins
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