Black Lawrence Press
November 28, 2017

Welcome, Kristin Chang!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Kristin Chang. Kristin is the author of the poetry chapbook Past Lives, Future Bodies,  which will be published in the fall of 2018.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

 

188The Author

Kristin Chang’s work has been published in Teen VogueMuzzle MagazineThe Margins (Asian American Writers Workshop), the Shade Journal, and elsewhere. Her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and Best New Poets. She works for Winter Tangerine and can be found online at kristinchang.com and on Twitter (@KXinming). She is passionate about martial arts films and matriarchy.

 

 

On writing Past Lives, Future Bodies

Writing this chapbook felt a lot like cartography: mapping lineages and migrations and ghosts. I’ve been haunted recently by a conversation between the poets Ocean Vuong and Kaveh Akbar, in which Vuong discusses the idea of “queering” Confucianism, of creating lineages that both honor and subvert patriarchal and heteronormative ideas of family and kinship. I wanted to explore my proximity to violence and whiteness and historical trauma, and to write towards safety in all its personal and collective forms. I tried challenging myself in these poems – stylistically, they’re more narrative than I usually write, a product of trying to honor the oral storytelling in my family. A film I watched over and over again while writing the first draft was Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden – I’m obsessed with its vengefulness, its blood-lush landscape and colonial specters, its capacity to wound and heal. The last image of the film, of two East Asian women kneeling before each other, reminded me of prayer or ritual or self-worship. It was everything I wanted to weave into words: a sense of journey and refuge and belonging inside your own body.

 

 

Excerpt

 

How I became fatherless

 

We leave while he sleeps.

Morning bright as a beak

feasting my bones clean, my eyes gone

godless. Every night my father falls

asleep with his hands wringing

the voice out of my throat. A blood-thin song

trickling out of my mouth. I drive

across two states, counting roadkill, recording

my speed in miles

per dead thing.

 

*

 

In Nevada, my mother can’t pay

for the motel, so we sleep at the bottom

of the empty swimming pool, hunger

carving our collarbones into deep

bowls. On every table in my father’s house, a bowl

of fruit: dragon’s eyes, unripe papaya, green

mango. He plunges his thumb into the tender

pulse of a pit, chews for hours. To make the sweetness

last, he said, you must 切开, 吃多. He smiles with rubbled

teeth, cavities clean as bulletholes. Asleep, he’s still as a shot

& skinned animal. I pet his head, each hair black & needle

-thick enough to draw blood. Once, I found

a single honeyed strand. He joked he was dyeing

into a tiger, black & orange, the color

of a bruise forgetting its ache.

 

*

Some days, every hurt

feels like the first. Today crows

fall out of the sky & the ground stinks

of surrendered flight. Today I tear off

my clothing like scabs, walk naked

in public. In California, my first fatherless

home is infested with beehives

vibrating walls into muscle. Before bed,

I imagine bees laying eggs in my marrow,

waking up as a pool of shallow honey. In the house

we left, my father is still

asleep, blanketed in bees.

His body the sweetest feast. I carry him

in my mouth like a fist

of sugar. I suck

until my teeth riot

with rot & I have nothing

left in my mouth to keep

quiet.

 

***

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