Although the field of literary publishing is still primarily populated by white editors and publishers, there are some POC-owned and directed publishers and a number of new and well-established poetry book prizes that are judged by respected POC authors and which seek to champion work of writers from particular communities of color. If you're a POC poet with a book manuscript in need of a home, here's a list of upcoming contests you might want to tryRead More
Over the past week and a half, we've been gathering images of POC writers and their libraries, as well as asking readers and writers of color to contribute their thoughts on the importance of building a personal library and how books by other POC writers have impacted their lives.
This post showcases responses from and glimpses into the libraries of Kazim Ali, Francisco Aragón, Jackson Bliss, Genève Chao, Shu-Ling Chua, Oliver de la Paz, M. Evelina Galang, Nathania Gilson, Jenna Le, Gemma Mahadeo, Meera (@ashmeera101), and Brian W. Parker.Read More
On the radar -- Mimi Mondal explores the history of South Asian speculative fiction for science fiction and fantasy publishing blog, Tor.Read More
It's hard to explain exactly why having a personal library is so valuable -- and why it is particularly valuable to a person of color (writer or reader) to build a library for oneself. Here are a few ways of thinking about the value and purpose of a personal library -- and what it can enable in ourselves.Read More
As we explore the topic of alternate routes of mentorship for writers, we will also offer here from time to time announcements and profiles of writer-mentors and their workshop offerings. Below is an announcement of a cyber-workshop being offered by award-winning poet Hoa Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam and currently resides in Canada.Read More
Over the past few months, we've explored POC mentorship at writing retreats and residencies, as well as studied and surveyed graduate creative writing programs in the US to determine where faculty of color are teaching and who teaches where (and what). All of this is helpful if you have the time and resources to invest in attending a program or retreat -- but sometimes that's not always possible. What then? Where do you find a mentor or coach?Read More
Here, De-Canon speaks to Anna Vo, musician, artist, zine-maker and publisher, and community organizer of IntersectFest, a festival from artists of color, which is in its third year of programming and takes place this year from December 8-10, at Ford Food & Drink and other locations around Portland.
1) In a few words, what is IntersectFest?
... It is an effort to center the narratives of people of color in Portland, and exhibit the work of artists of color from Portland and elsewhere. It is a refusal to submit to a narrative of whiteness being centered in Portland. ...Read More
A couple years ago, I went to see a reading at Powell’s bookstore on Hawthorne, in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. The reading was for the debut novel of an acquaintance and colleague I’d been in shared circles with for years through an organization called Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN). I also was a contributing writer to an arts and culture blog this novelist had founded.
At Powell’s that night, myself and the friend I’d invited were the only Asian people in attendance and there were not more than fifteen people total in the audience. The novelist, a university professor specializing in topics having to do with cinema and the Vietnam War, showed a montage of clips from famous American movies depicting the Vietnam era, then went on to critique the dehumanizing representation of Vietnamese (and other Asians) in such movies. The scene he read from his novel satirically depicted said dynamics. It was discomfiting, a little, to witness this presentation being given in front of a small crowd of mostly white people, but I was glad to see it being done. ...Read More
Our August exhibit at UNA Gallery featured 334 books by writers of color, 270 of which were purchased for the collection or donated by authors or presses, and the remaining 64 were loaned to the collection for the exhibit by Dao Strom, Neil Aitken, and another local writer. The following list is not intended to be final or exhaustive, but instead to offer a snapshot as to where we are -- and hopefully inspire others to try some new titles or revisit old favorites. We will continue to add to our archive and will provide updated lists in the new year.Read More
August 2017 Closing Thoughts:
De-Canon: A Visibility Project launched in August 2017, with a month-long popup library exhibit at UNA Gallery in Portland, Oregon. We held events every week throughout the month and were joined by many other artists, writers, and artist groups in our community, all artists and writers of color. Our month of events and happenings showcased the multiplicity of voices, talents, views, and the sheer creativity and strength of the POC creative community in Portland. We are proud, grateful, humbled, delighted to have had the chance to create space for these interactions.
We owe thanks to many for contributions: Precipice Fund Grant/PICA; UNA Gallery (brilliantly run by Mercedes Orozco and Blair Crissman); book donations from Wave Books, Tin House, Octopus Books, Sundress Publications, YesYes Books; to Kevin Sampsell at Powell's for featuring a De-Canon display shelf in the bookstore; and to all the authors who donated their own books (Hoa Nguyen, Stephanie Adams-Santos, Cindy Williams Gutierrez, we will keep adding names here...); and to the contributors who helped us create our "de-canonizing" lists. We will be assembling those "de-canon" lists of contributors on the De-Canon website soon. We also appreciate the press and blog posts by the Mercury, Portland Monthly, Literary Arts, Oregon Arts Watch, and AWP Writer's Notebook.
Gratitude and recognition to all the presenters and participating artists and writers: Moved By Words; White Noise Project; Unlearning Podcast (Béalleka, Jeff Jaeckle); Physical Education (Taka Yamamoto, Lu Yim, Allie Hankins, keyon gaskin); and all the poets, asemic & visual artist-poets, and musicians: Samiya Bashir, Sam Roxas-Chua, Roland Dahwen Wu, Stacey Tran, Jonathan Raissi, Stephanie Adams-Santos, Christopher Rose, Jake Vermaas, Neil Aitken, Shayla Lawson, Trevino Brings Plenty, Anna Vo, Tron 444, Dao Strom, Amy Temple Harper, Claudia F. Savage, Skyler Reed, Consuelo Wise, Amy Lam, Alyssa Ogi, Rachel Springer.
We had such a powerhouse lineup of artists sharing their creative gifts in this space with us in August, and all of this is testament to the currents running through us all :: thank you thank you.
& a very special thanks to Kyle Macdonald, who designed and built all of our book boxes, all from recycled and reclaimed wood.
The poem "Thoughts On a Summer Exhibit" was made for De-Canon by Sam Roxas-Chua, inspired by our opening night event. He has kindly given us permission to re-print it here.
We will soon post a book index listing the books that were part of our August exhibit.
AWP: Compiling a list like this is a big commitment of time and effort. What compelled you to take on this work?
Neil Aitken: In some sense, this felt like the natural next step in the series of posts I’ve been writing and compiling for De-Canon: A Visibility Project. After compiling last month’s list which assembled all the books, articles, essays, and lectures I could find by writers of color on craft, I began wondering how many (if any) of these texts were being used in graduate creative writing classrooms—and who taught in those classrooms?Read More
Tender Table is a series featuring the voices of women of color and gender nonconforming people of color. It is a platform for storytelling and sharing food. The stories told at Tender Table are connected to the food shared at these events.
The urgency to create Tender Table came out of a desire and necessity to have these conversations in Portland, OR (often referred to being very white, a mecca of food appropriation by acclaimed white chefs) and hopefully someday in other cities. I encourage people to learn about the food they love, choose ethically sourced food, reach out and give back to the communities who’ve grown, harvested, and worked to put food in front of us. Many food workers of color work in harsh conditions and/or are not appropriately compensated or protected by their employers. How do we expose it, examine it, and create actions to change that?Read More
Thanks to Wave Books, for our first publisher donations for the De-Canon library!!Read More
Here's the third and final post detailing the graduate faculty writers of color teaching in MA, MFA, and PhD programs in states Texas to Wyoming. As before, if I've missed anyone whose permanent faculty at in a graduate creative writing program, please let me know and I'll add them in. These posts are largely meant to help us all have a better perspective of what's out there, who's teaching where, and where you might go if you're hoping to work with a creative writing mentor who is also POC.Read More
This post continues our project of identifying who is teaching where when it comes to permanent creative writing faculty in MA, MFA, and PhD programs across the United States. As noted earlier, there's a good chance I've missed a few people (and possibly programs) -- please feel free to notify me if there are any glaring errors or omissions. This is intended as a snapshot of the current state of things (as of June 2017) -- people do move around and programs will hire more POC creative writing faculty, but at the very least we can get a glimpse of what's going on -- and hopefully this will be a good resource for anyone considering doing graduate work in creative writing.Read More
I think a big challenge for many writers considering an MFA or a PhD is trying to figure out where to go and who to study with. Often a young writer of color does not have easy access to information about programs or faculty who might be a good fit. Given the sheer number of possible programs, finding potential faculty mentors of color can be exhausting and discouraging. In an effort to remedy this in some small way, I've spent the last few weeks researching graduate creative writing programs, trying to build a snapshot of who is teaching where, and what genres are being covered in different programs.Read More
June 1, 2017 @ UNA Gallery --- We were so pleased to debut a mini-preview of our De-Canon project as part of First Thursday's Art Walk.
We had three poets in conversation in exhibit-format in the upstairs part of the gallery: Stephanie Adams-Santos, Christopher Rose, and Trevino Brings Plenty displayed poems as text slides, audio readings, and video projection. Downstairs, we had one set of shelves displaying a small selection of quintessential texts by writers of color, contemporary works, and by writers no longer living.
This was just a sampling of the "pop-up library" installation that will be on exhibit at UNA for the month of August - and which will include a larger number of books and shelves, and more "exhibits" of poetry by local artists and writers.
The desire to seek out a mentor is an old one. One of the classic tropes in Tang dynasty poetry is the scholar-official's unsuccessful attempt to visit a recluse, often with the intent to discuss poetry and/or enlightenment. In most of these cases, the seeker's encounter with absence becomes the occasion for relaying a conversation that never takes place. Rather than viewing such missed encounters with disappointment, the tone of these poems tends toward a strange peaceful reverie in the poet's momentary brush with enlightenment (see Paula S. Varsano's excellent critical piece on this tradition). Somehow in not finding the hermit, the seeker finds something else awakened and revealed in the awaiting silence.
For most of us, the failure to find the mentor we are seeking rarely translates into an epiphany about what we are trying to do or become as writers. Instead, silence sometimes begets more silence. Absence, further absence. The missing mentor leaves a void that cannot be adequately or satisfactorily filled with the surrounding white noise of the world.Read More
"It's not that I'm trying to dis these historians ... [but] even sillier than thinking of erasure as an arts and craft exercise, is the avant-garde desire to locate erasures beginning in the 1960s, or to suggest that language poets were the originators of the post-modern (read: post-colonial--when you hear 'post-modern', read 'post-colonial'...) shift in western literature. It's not only a historically silly idea, but it misses much of the exquisite point of the vastness of erasure's reach, and, even more importantly, the vastness of literatures by people of color.Read More