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Amy King

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How The Day Was One by Amy King

"A poem is an act of war / over today's fenced-in neighbors / and sheds."

#poem #poetry #contemporary #queer #poet #queerpoet #LGBT #AmyKing
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Amy King’s workshops and critiques are as intelligent and intuitive as she is. She’s introduced me to conceptual ideas that seem at first complex and perhaps over my head—but the way she breaks them down and incorporates them step by step into fun and challenging exercises makes them so accessible that I find myself pondering and using them in my own poetics again and again. I’ve worked with her several times, and I highly recommend Amy’s teaching style—learned yet lucid, erudite yet playful. She’s a joy!

—Jenn Givhan, 2015 Winner NEA in Poetry

What’s amazing about Amy is, unlike so many other great poets, she’s also a great teacher, a true facilitator of other people’s visions. Amy has a range of techniques to guide you through the entire arc of the creative process from the first germ of inspiration to your final edit, but the support Amy offers doesn’t just confirm what you’re already doing. She will shake you up, jolt you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to confront the personal limits you’re stumbling over in your writing. Her prompts will immerse you – literally, with all kinds of media – in new ways of seeing, thinking and making connections, and her responses to your work will help you re-frame how you think about your writing. I always feel that Amy holds my work to as high a standard as she holds her own, yet her critiques reflect her sense of what I’m trying to accomplish; she’s sensitive and generous in that way. I don’t think teaching is just a day job to Amy. She brings the same ethic and commitment, the same way of connecting she explores in her poetry to her work with her students.

—Justine el-Khazen, Brooklyn-based poet & creative writing instructor at Eugene Lang

I have collaborated with Amy King on several publishing projects — the magazine Esque, and the PEN Poetry Series — and we’ve also taught together at Naropa University, The San Francisco Poetry Center and Slippery Rock University. Amy has taught me so much about teaching poetry and fostering fruitful, kinetic student interaction. At Naropa, we lead a workshop on “The Trans Cyborg;” from Fernando Pessoa to Tamiko Beyer and Nicki Minaj, Amy activated the group with generative readings and viewings, and insightfully helped along students’ work with critique and exercises like “Write your own personal mythology” and “Interlace fingers / interlace lines into a hybrid poem.” Co-teaching this class was a lesson to me as well on how poetry can pass between poet-teacher and poet-student, and how empathetic, radical, disciplined engagement leads to breakthroughs in poems and poetics. As a teacher, Amy accepts nothing less. Amy was also an essential reader and editor for both of my books of poetry, and a valued poetry journal co-editor who confidently made micro and macro editorial and curatorial decisions to the benefit of every poem she was entrusted with. I recommend her as a teacher and editor without hesitation — you are lucky to have a chance to travel a while with her.

—Ana Božičević, author of Stars of the Night Commute and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Rise in the Fall

Whether you are writing about the intricacies of daily interactions or incorporating broad topics from science to philosophy to politics, Amy King’s got you covered! She writes from the street but not from a blank slate – in fact, from a broad intellectual background. Her prompts are rich in detail and suggestibility. She provides extensive supporting material and recommends a cornucopia of relevant poetry to inspire you. Her feedback is direct, insightful, and incisive but does not foreclose your options for finding your own route to improvement.

She inspired me to write my first prose poem!

—Mary Newell, Ph. D.

In 35 years of teaching Creative Writing and literature courses at the University of South Alabama and having served as Alabama’s Poet Laureate from 2003 -2012, I have never know anyone who gives a more thorough and helpful critique than Amy King. She is an outstanding poet who uses her experience to offer insightful comments and suggestions thatare encouraging and yet honest when it comes to rewrites. I have taken a couple of Amy’s courses just to have her astute feedback. It is a privilege to be in a class of Amy’s, take part in challenging and exciting exercises. and learn new ways to look at writing poetry.

—Sue Walker, Publisher Negative Capability Press
Retired Professor of English, University of South Alabama,
Poet Laureate of Alabama 2003-2012

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“Rarely have the nude and the cooked been so neatly joined” as in Amy King’s I Want to Make You Safe. If “us,” “herons,” and “dust” rhyme, then these poems rhyme. If that makes you feel safe, it shouldn’t. Amy King’s poems are exuberant, strange, and a bit grotesque. They’re spring-loaded and ready for trouble. Categories collapse. These are the new “thunderstorms with Barbie roots.” —Rae Armantrout

Amy King’s poems seem to encompass all that we think of as the “natural” world, i.e. sex, sun, love, rotting, hatching, dreaming, especially in the wonderful long poem “This Opera of Peace.” She brings these abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living: “Let the walls bear up the angle of the floor,/Let the mice be tragic for all that is caged,/Let time’s contagion mar us/until spoken people lie as particles of wind.” —John Ashbery

Amy King’s mercurial poems capture the instability of cultural, sexual, and poetic identity. In the circuitry of her illuminated, incongruous, but somehow perfectly apt details, ‘the alien befits us.’ With a nod to Gertrude Stein and Fernando Pessoa, as well as cameos by Frida Kahlo, Maya Deren, and Claude Cahun, Amy celebrates ‘the roles’ of women even as she redefines them, telling us: ‘I put on my long black dream/to live among my female brothers.’ Playful, provocative, and frenetically lyrical, this is metamorphic poetry for our times. —Elaine Equi

I love Amy King’s smile in photos of Amy King, Amy King’s exuberance and looping, bashing panache (flamboyant manner, reckless courage) in the poems of Amy King, I’m going to say Amy King every chance I get in this blurb to make you think “I gotta read me some Amy King,” especially if you’re “looking for anything/that will pull the cork, boil the blood/of displeasure,” as only the poems of Amy King can in the world in which Amy King is King (and Queen). —Bob Hicok

The first poem I read by Amy King was “MEN BY THE LIPS OF WOMEN” and it struck me with a force I had previously felt on encountering masterworks by Lorca and Dylan Thomas. I won’t live long enough to see if her poetry will continue to equal the magnificence of theirs, but the fact that she achieved it once (at least) proves to me it could. —Bill Knott

Smoke n’ hott, these poems emerge as … audible diamonds that cut, where Rock is King & candor disarms paranoia. or, in King’s case, downright dismembers it: Forgive me, I am the final/ seminary soul to check your shape/in the dress of that embalming line, Passengered adeptly under the influence of Lorea, Neruda maybe, (Buried by midnight/ I am a Warm/fly in amber.) the reader wants to shout, GO DUENDE!!! —Jeni Olin

“‘I’m portable. My mind travels / the verse and valleys of whole people’ says the poet. Correct! Readers of this book will discover their own memories. They will melt in them, amazed, lullabied, dramatized, shocked that they exist. Amy King is a true bard. —Tomaz Salamun

Vulnerability, fragility, and anxiety are all flushed out into the open here and addressed with such strong sound and rhythm that we recognize a resilient, defiant strength within them. King puts relentless pressure on forces seemingly beyond our reach and, in bringing them closer, exposes their own vulnerable centers. This is a poetry equally committed to language as a tool with social obligations and language as an art material obligated to reveal its own beauty. King’s language does both magnificently. —Cole Swensen

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Reviewed by Emma Bolden

The Missing Museum
Poems by Amy King
Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2016
$14.00; 114 pp.
ISBN-13: 978-1939460080

In February 2012, the Russian feminist punk/performance art/protest group Pussy Riot staged an act of protest against the re-election of Vladimir Putin. Between services at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a Russian Orthodox church destroyed by Stalin and rebuilt in the 1990s, the women entered and walked up to the altar, jumping and jabbing their fists in the air. Filmed footage of the performance was included in the music video for their song, “Punk Prayer: Mother of God Drive Putin Away.” The song implores the Virgin Mary to “banish Putin” and “become a feminist, we pray thee.” Although Cathedral guards removed the group in less than a minute, three group members were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and sentenced to two years in prison.

After the American election of 2016, Pussy Riot warned Americans to prepare themselves: Trump’s presidency, they predicted, would resemble Putin’s in ways that many Americans might not even be able to imagine. In a December 2016 interview, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova told New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg that it was “important not to say to yourself, ‘Oh, it’s O.K.’ [ . . . ] in Russia, for the first year of when Vladimir Putin came to power, everybody was thinking that it will be O.K.” It isn’t safe, Tolokonnikova continued, to trust that America’s institutions will protect its citizens and their freedoms, as “a president has power to change institutions and a president moreover has power to change public perception of what is normal, which could lead to changing institutions.”

Pussy Riot’s work serves as a frame for Amy King’s riotous, rapturous, and radical fifth full-length collection, The Missing Museum. I mean “frame” quite literally: a passage from the poem that shares part of its title with the first section of the book, “PUSSY PUSSY SOCHI PUSSY PUTIN SOCHI QUEER QUEER PUSSY,” is printed on the back cover. “I HAVE A WITCH-CHURCH HAND,” the speaker declares in the poem, “& / PUSSIES RIOTING A PUTIN PRAYER / ON A NATION OF PEOPLE.” Just as Pussy Riot composed the clarion call of an iconoclastic culture countering Russian authoritarianism and repression, so too does Amy King’s work spur, capture, and curate the artifacts of a burgeoning resistance movement in the United States.

Also like Pussy Riot, King’s use of the term “pussy” serves as a shibboleth for revolutionary feminism, reclaiming a term used as a slur against women—and, as the 2016 release of Access Hollywood footage shows, one often linked linguistically to sexual assault and rape. Through reclamation, feminists empty the term of its misogynistic implications, empowering themselves by taking ownership of the language of the oppressor. Now, “pussy” has become a common part of the American vernacular, wielded by women fighting to preserve their fundamental rights to control their own bodies and speech. Likewise, Pussy Riot’s music carries great meaning for the American resistance and for the poems in this collection, which serve, in many ways, as a museum preserving the gathering motion of resistance.

Unlike many museums, King’s isn’t a collection of evidence of an unchanging monolithic culture. Instead, the book protests the very idea that any culture or subculture is, was, or ever will be stable, static, and homogeneous. King’s poetry sweeps through cultural references from surrealist painter Leonora Carrington to soul singer and activist Nina Simone to pop singer Lionel Richie. The sheer breadth of references in King’s work echoes the idea that no culture is singular or stationary. The disparate works—songs, paintings, poems, acts of civil disobedience—of all of these artists cross through the collection as separate but equally essential works and workers of culture. As King writes in “You Make the Culture,” “The words become librarians, custodians of people.” If any representation of a culture is to be accurate, she continues, it is to involve movement: “I will walk with the sharks of our pigments / [ . . . ] until we leave rooms that hold us apart.” Inclusivity, and the ability to envision all groups in terms of belonging, is essential, as lines near the end of the poem show: “Nothing comes from the center / that doesn’t break most everything apart.”

After all, culture is the product of changeable, mutable human beings who, King argues in the collection’s prologue, “Wake Before Dawn & Salt the Sea,” are more action than object: “Our limits may not be expandable, but before you say, / ‘Blood and sinew,’ remember you’re making a mistake. / We are not edges of limbs or the heart’s smarts only.” As such, a worthwhile life is a life beyond “noise,” beyond “dying full of money but no one will give a shit, rich asshole.” To be stationary, to live untroubled while following the American exhortation to gain money and power without examining the dangers this philosophy poses or the system purporting this philosophy, is anathema to progress. The poem ends with a couplet that brings to mind Herman Melville’s enjoinder at the end of “Art,” in which he calls for a fusion of opposites within the self and between the self and the heavens. “Be somebody,” King implores of us, “be one who wrestles and make love to the dark / that is your deepest part, the uselessness of love and art.” The idea that the most beautiful things we as human beings bring to the light—beauty, love, art—are utterly useless comes as a shock, especially as it also comes at the end of a gorgeously-wrought poem serving as the collection’s prologue. The location of these lines creates the same kind of shock as the location of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” in an Orthodox cathedral. Both performances don’t just shock: they shift. The juxtaposition of lyric and location creates a moment in which the mind bends, allowing disparate realities to coexist.

King calls upon the work of the Surrealists to illustrate this juxtaposition. In “And Then We Saw The Daughter of the Minotaur,” a poem named after a painting by Surrealist Leonora Carrington, King writes of the need to move beyond accepted meanings, “to grow branches / between worlds on the backs of nurtured equations.” She calls for us to “[s]ay another elsewhere. Open the broom, sick with sorceries.” In “Pussy Riot Rush Hour,” King speaks of a woman traveling the Lexington Avenue Line while “hitting / herself, buck up head heavy against / the number 5 train downtown.” She describes her “self-infliction” as “a cause / that brings us away from our senses.” Here, King references Arthur Rimbaud, who called for poets to transform themselves into “seers” through a “long, immense, and reasoned derangement of all the senses.”

King’s collection carries out Rimbaud’s call through the velocity of its juxtapositions, racing through shifts in voice, structure, theme, and tone, sometimes within the same poem. In “Understanding the Poem,” “this world is anything but a poem” —and then, in the next line, “This world is this, this world is poem, and I am unusual today, at least.” The frenetic movement of King’s work—from popular culture to high culture, from Georgia pines to New York streets, from all-caps alert to expertly-groomed almost-sonnets—recalls the cry of Baudelaire’s soul to travel “Anywhere, anywhere, as long as it be out of this world!” The speed and span of juxtapositions in the collection reveals what is missing from museums: movement, derangement, change.

By this dynamic derangement of our assumptions about culture, King’s museum reveals what culture really is: an ever-changing multiplicity of perspectives that cannot be carved into different, disparate wings. The narrative of culture as a series of singular, separate factions and philosophies leads to the violence of othering and violence against others. In “Perspective,” this moves beyond theory to a matter of actual life and death:

When I see two cops laughing
after one of them gets shot
because this is TV and one says
while putting pressure on the wound,
Haha, you’re going to be fine,
and the other says, I know, haha!,
as the ambulance arrives—
I know the men are white.

At the end of the poem, King asks us to wrestle with questions about this narrative, about the curation of our culture, essential for the survival of our nation and ourselves.

Who gets to see and who follows
what script? I ask my students.
Whose lines are these and by what hand
are they written?

In that 2016 New York Times interview, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova herself echoed this idea: “‘You are always in danger of being shut down,’ she said. ‘But it’s not the end of the story because we are prepared to fight.’” With her work and words, King shows her readers how to join the fight.

Emma Bolden is the author of medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press 2016) and Maleficae (GenPop Books 2013). Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Pinch, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Her honors include a 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA and the Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. She serves as Senior Reviews Editor for Tupelo Quarterly.

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"This, of course, comes as no surprise to those familiar with King’s work. It is uninterested in evenness and regularity. It is adroit and sharp and scream-y (often in literal caps) and rampaging. You don’t disgorge a poem entitled “PUSSY PUSSY SOCHI QUEER PUSSY PUTIN SOCHI QUEER QUEER PUSSY” because you are trying to lull your reader with luxe, calme, et volupté.

And yet King’s work is for me memorable because, amid all those sharp blades and swears, her light step is frequently, unavoidably beautiful, with lines that you want to lick until they melt..."
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A note on our editorial history and practice:

The first Bettering American Poetry project was initiated by Amy King, who gathered together a group of poets with complementary yet distinct approaches to politics/poetics to serve as co-editors of the first anthology project. Bettering American Poetry 2015 was born out of both rage and hope, with an eye toward better publishing practices and the championing of vital artists.

Each subsequent anthology's editorial team will be comprised of poets who were published in previous editions of Bettering American Poetry, as well as guest editors as yet unrelated to the Bettering project. This way, we hope to trouble the distinction between poet & editor, publisher & published, in ways that are productive and exciting. And as this series grows, we hope to build a large and supportive network of readers & writers that can take our project in new directions and build altogether new projects.

The Bettering American Poetry Series and its publisher, Bettering Books, are curated by Sarah Clark, Amy King, and Héctor Ramírez. As curators of the series, Sarah, Amy, and Héctor supplement the selections made by editors where and if necessary (for instance, in the event that one editor cannot fulfill their duties, or if we simply feel the need to bring more underrepresented voices in the room). However, it is ultimately the role of each anthology's editorial team to take charge of the content, shape, direction, and aspirations of their project however they see fit, beyond the general mission of the Bettering American Poetry Series.

We do not believe in "objective" reading practices. We do not believe in spotlighting the "best" poems from a given year. We do not believe there is any one way to master the role of editor/curator/publisher. We believe in active & passionate reading, transparency in mission & masthead, and committing ourselves to building a series that is an organism, not an institution.

Each book we put out will be an act of resistance & a space of refuge.

-Sarah & Amy & Héctor

Bettering American Poetry 2016 is the second anthology in the Bettering American series, forthcoming from Bettering Books in Fall 2017, co-edited by:

Kaveh Akbar / jayy dodd / Joshua Jennifer Espinoza / Muriel Leung / Camille Rankine / Michael Wasson
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Talking About What We Don’t Talk About: Roundtable with Eunsong Kim, Amy King, Lucas de Lima, Hoa Nguyen, Héctor Ramírez, Metta Sáma, Nikki Wallschlaeger

@ Poetry Foundation

“The quiet confidences, to me, are indicative of a larger understanding at play in the poetry world, and Lehman is only one example of such ‘powerhouses’ who seem to take advantage of that power boldly and blatantly.”
“Whisper campaigns, hit jobs, passive aggressive and aggressive treatments–carried out by poets who feel they can single me out with cruelty because I’m a woman of color and not Ivy league. I’ve experienced this keenly.”
“So I’ve learned I’m going to have to carve my own way in poetry, because I’m not going to compromise my own voice–I mean it’s mine after all. So I took the tools I learned about form and made them work for me.”
“…we’re not asking for the gatekeepers to find the two writers of color that for whatever reason, cannot disagree with the premise of the project, agrees with the premise of the project, or are not positions to reject ‘inclusion.’
In such cases, mirroring the structural establishment in place, people of color are brought in to uphold hegemony—this is neoliberalism, which is fundamentally multicultural (this is Rod Ferguson’s argument). They exist not to interrupt whiteness but to protect it.”
” I wish to say this again, now in the present tense: the members of the US-American avant-garde care more about their careers than they do about the memory of Michael Brown.”
“I don’t want a career in this terrible amalgamation of literature and higher education if it means not only that I’d have to work with racist assholes (what line of work is free of them, after all?) but also that I’d likely have to defend these assholes with my brown body just to fight over their scraps with other people like me (or else, try to keep my head down, bite my tongue, clench my fists, and ignore the assholes as best I can while still keeping my job and my name and my dignity intact). Nah. I want to carve my own way too.”

Tags: Amy King, Eunsong Kim, Héctor Ramírez, Hoa Nguyen, Lucas de Lima, Metta Sáma, Nikki Wallschlaeger

Posted in Featured Blogger on Monday, August 31st, 2015 by Amy King.
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Adam Fitzgerald curated a substantial portfolio at LitHub. From his introduction:

This portfolio cannot and should not be seen as a codification nor totalizing index of Asian or Asian-American poetry. Indeed, there are many incredible writers not mentioned below (Tan Lin and Srikanth Reddy are just two examples). Yet the chance to foreground just some of these resounding poets’ works by their fellow poets seems to me a welcome opportunity to reframe our focus and energy away from attention otherwise swallowed up by the scandals of white trespass. Cultural appropriation continues to thrive in American literature in 2015, but it is still not as alive as these poets, their works, works which continue to interrogate self and society, image and hybridity, translation and nativity, among other infinitudes.

Gratefully, I wrote on KIM HYESOON. An excerpt:

I have never liked beauty for beauty’s sake. Show me a sunset; I want to see the decaying carcass it’s going down on. Speak about the larger-than-life glowing orange moon; I itch to talk about the mechanics of pollution amplifying its rays and how we made it so. We are a gorgeous and cruel species. Poetry that shows me how to hold two or more ideas, supposedly opposing, simultaneously in my head and grapple with their symbiosis, locate their intersections and exchanges, applaud their joint custody of a concept, gives me life. I am charged by the work that actualizes untidy concepts in the visceral; I am challenged by work that undoes underlying assumptions; I am engrossed by the introduction of ideas not meant to meet.

Read the rest at LitHub, among many other amazing entries by poets listed below.  Thanks & please share this wonderful resource.

A.L. Nielsen, Amy King, Andrew Durbin, Arthur Sze, Asian American poetry, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Asian poetry, Barbara Jane Reyes, Bhanu Kapil, Brandon Som, Cathy Linh Che, Cathy Park Hong, Cathy Song, Chialun Chang, Christine Shan, Shan Hou, Christopher Soto, Danez Smith, Divya Victor, Dodie Bellamy, Don Mee Choi, Don Share, Dorothy J. Wang, Evie Shockley, Fatimah Asghar, Franny Choi, Garrett Hongo, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Hoa Nguyen, Jackie Wang, Jane Wong, Janice Lee, Jason Koo, Jennifer Tseng, Jenny Zhang, Johannes Goransson, John Ashbery, John Yau, Joyelle McSweeney, Katie Raissian, Kim Hyesoon, Kim Yideum, Kimberly Alidio, Kundiman, Li-Young Lee, Linda Ashok, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Lucas de Lima, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Melissa Studdard, Metta Sáma, Monica Youn, Myung Mi Kim, Ocean Vuong, Patrick Rosal, poems, Qinglan Wang, Ravi Shankar, Sawako Nakayasu, Sianne Ngai, Solmaz Sharif, Srikanth Reddy, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Suheir Hammad, Suji Kwock Kim, Tan Lin, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Timothy Liu, Trisha Low, Veronica Golos, Vijay Seshadri, Wendy Xu, Wong May, Yi Sang
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