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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.
 
***