Welcome to the inaugural issue of Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry. After many months of hard work, we’re pleased to present a volume that we hope reflects, in some part, the diversity of writing being done by contemporary Asian American poets. Our issue features a vast range of poetic styles as well as a mixture of voices from different generations. We’re also privileged to be able to feature a number of stunning pieces of visual art whose images reflect an engagement with metaphor, gesture, and texture that is almost poetic—indeed, several of the visual artists whose work appears here are also poets. The issue concludes with our Community Voices section, which features pieces by members of the community surrounding the Asian American poetry organization Kundiman, and a review of Sun Yung Shin’s Skirt Full of Black by Craig Santos Perez.
We were blown away by both the volume and the quality of the submissions that we received during our first open reading period. Out of the over 200 poems we received, we were hard-pressed to narrow our choices down to the 30 that follow. After we had made our final selections and had begun to consider the poems as a group, we found that a number of common themes began to emerge. It was around these themes that the issue eventually shaped itself.
We chose to open the issue with Angela Veronica Wong’s “Runaway Stars,” whose motley collection of “stars” (playing on the pun between the word for celestial bodies and the word for celebrities) seemed, to us, to speak to the kind of curatorial work that we found ourselves doing: from the wide range of voices and styles in this issue emerged a unifying thread of testimony to what it means to be a child of diaspora, a gendered and raced body familiar with the instability of geography and the way it complicates national and ethnic identity. Many of the poems in this issue speak to the messiness that is diasporic subjectivity: transnational migration, the complex nature of immigrant family histories, the slipperiness of space and time that comes with having multiple, sometimes conflicting, claims to “home," the haziness of marginal or border spaces, and the way that death, sickness, oppression, war, and atrocity can inscribe themselves on and transform our physical forms. Some poems, like Rachelle Cruz’s “I Am Still Alive” and Vuong Quoc Vu’s “Two Love Dreams,” engage with the fickleness of the diasporic body by invoking the half-space between sleep and waking. Other poems, like Sankar Roy’s “Sick” and “Yellow Fever,” turn to the body as a site of transience and impermanence. Still other pieces, like Desmond Kon’s “: craquelure at the interiors :” and the Ray Craig’s Sumo images, reflect on the body’s spatial relationship to art—how multiple visual representations of raced bodies may be read as poetic texts.