Lantern Review: Issue 5
The Hybridity Issue
“What of the partition.”
—Teresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
When speaking of Asian American poetry, it is impossible not to think of hybridity. To identify as Asian American is to necessarily identify in some way as “marginal,” “mixed,” or “multiple.” Asian Americans are simultaneously “of” and “not of” America, “of” and “not of” Asia, required to be perpetual crossers and re-crossers of borders, and to be negotiators of multiple continents, languages, cultures, classes, ethnicities, sexualities, religions, national and local identities—often simultaneously. In her seminal work, Borderlands, Gloria Anzaldúa remarks that to survive as a person of hybrid identity (la mestiza) requires a willingness to embrace a state of constant flux, “a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity” (101). Indeed, for the racialized, hybrid subject, negotiating the slippery realm of identity requires no small amount of work. But out of that work can come the potential for prolific creative production. Anzaldúa herself refers to the work required to negotiate borders as a “continual creative motion” (102).
In Issue 5—our first-ever themed issue—we showcase pieces that explore, and alternately critique and celebrate, hybridity and the hybrid condition in the context of Asian American poetry. To this end, we’ve selected work that embodies the theme of “hybridity” in a variety of ways. Some of the poems herein, like the excerpt from Kristen Eliason’s Picture Dictionary and Christopher Santiago’s “Some Words,” propose a kind of “linguistic” hybridity, in which narratives of personal transformation are probed through the building of new vocabularies within existing linguistic structures. For Eliason, the speaker’s study of the Japanese katakana alphabet becomes the frame by which her speaker explores the dual traumas of emigration and personal bereavement, while for Santiago, the vocabulary of latinate medical jargon serves to shape and inform the experience of first-time parenthood.
Others in this issue, like Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé, Sally Wen Mao, and Khaty Xiong, explore the hybrid, transnational condition through the use of imagistic and sonic collage. In Kon’s two poems, which are drawn from a larger sequence called “Gigi’s Graphologist Recommended Narrative Therapy,” the poet investigates what it means to “perform” global cosmopolitanism by mixing together philosophical and literary allusions from multiple traditions and languages into hyper-aware, almost dizzy, heteroglossic collages. Mao and Xiong, on the other hand, collage together imagery of the grotesque with human and animal voicings, effacing the line between the dead and the living as they evoke the trauma of diasporic displacement.