Welcome to Issue 2 of Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry! We hope you enjoy this tighter, more cohesive volume. In assembling this issue, we aimed for greater compression than in our inaugural issue, due in part to our desire to work toward a more streamlined aesthetic, and also in hopes of delivering a more carefully honed arc that explores the diverse stylistic and thematic features of contemporary Asian American poetry.
Another new feature to look for in this issue is the work of performing arts organization Sulu DC, featured not just as text on page (or screen), but also as audio recording. This is a new development in our journal’s unique publishing capabilities, and hopefully not the last. In the future, we hope to continue to make use of the many modalities available to an online publication like Lantern Review. This issue also features, alongside stunning photographic images like Annanya Dasgupta’s “Blackbird” and Larissa Min’s “Rain on Me,” the work of design artist Bethany Fong, who combines representational images with narrative surroundings and ‘self-portraiture’ that takes the form of her subject’s own doodles and notes.
In selecting and sequencing the poems for this issue, we found ourselves having to address our own version of the discussion that was sparked by Henry W. Leung’s review of Cha: An Asian Literary Journal's 12th issue on the LR Blog. Henry’s post pointed towards a question that was subsequently addressed in responses on both the Cha blog and the asianamlitfans Livejournal community: How exactly does one define ‘Asian’ literature within the context of a literary publication, and should a self-proclaimed ‘Asian’ journal only publish writing that falls neatly within the parameters of such a definition? Unsurprisingly, this is the same kind of question with which we frequently wrestle in our own editorial process. Each time we choose a piece that we’d like to publish, we’re faced with the need to define and redefine our position with regards to how we are defining ‘Asian American poetry’: What is contemporary ‘Asian American’ poetry? What kind of poetry does an ‘Asian American’ literary journal publish? Do we focus exclusively on work by writers of color? Do we restrict ourselves to publishing only content that seems recognizably ‘Asian American’ in theme? How does one define ‘Asian Americaness,’ in the first place?
We’ve come to the conclusion that, while there is no clear cut answer to such questions, it is the very struggle to engage with ‘Asian Americanness’ through questioning—rather than an adherence to strict geographical, cultural, or even thematic definitions of Asian American identity—that interests us most. As heirs to the legacy left by the historicizing, autobiographical, and/or identitarian poetics of previous generations, we feel that it is important that we continue to probe the limits of the term ‘Asian America’ as an ideologically and politically constructed designation of community, even as we continue to celebrate the groundwork done by those who have gone before us. Thus, in our editorial process, we have found ourselves continually drawn to poems that pursue certain kinds of complex critical questions. Questions of absence and diaspora, constructions and deconstructions of language and identity (racial, ethnic, sexual, regional, national), histories of immigration and emigration, the structures of memory and cultural knowledge—these are just a few of the critical issues framed by the work that we have come to see as constituting ‘contemporary Asian American poetry.’