Virtual Event: Poetry Reading with Susan Nguyen (Dear Diaspora), Sara Sams (Atom City), and Bo Schwabacher (Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs)
We're delighted to announce a virtual poetry reading with Susan Nguyen (author of Dear Diaspora), Sara Sams (author of Atom City), and Bo Schwabacher (author of Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs) in conjunction with the Utah Humanities Book Festival. Tune into our YouTube channel Friday, September 10th at 6 PM MDT to catch the livestream!
If you need any accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
About Dear Diaspora
Dear Diaspora is an unapologetic reckoning with history, memory, and grief. Parting the weeds on a small American town, this collection sheds light on the intersections of girlhood and diaspora. The poems introduce us to Suzi: ripping her leg hairs out with duct tape, praying for ecstasy during Sunday mass, dreaming up a language for buried familial trauma and discovering that such a language may not exist. Through a collage of lyric, documentary, and epistolary poems, we follow Suzi as she untangles intergenerational grief and her father’s disappearance while climbing trees to stare at the color green and wishing that she wore Lucy Liu’s freckles.
Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Dear Diaspora scrutinizes our turning away from the trauma of our past and our complicity in its erasure. Suzi, caught between enjoying a rundown American adolescence and living with the inheritances of war, attempts to unravel her own inherited grief as she explores the multiplicities of identity and selfhood against the backdrop of the Vietnamese diaspora. In its deliberate interweaving of voices, Dear Diaspora explores Suzi’s journey while bringing to light other incarnations of the refugee experience.
About Susan Nguyen
Susan Nguyen hails from Virginia but currently lives and writes in Arizona. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Arizona State University, where she won the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Prize and fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. In 2018, PBS NewsHour named her one of "three women poets to watch." Her work appears in diagram, Tin House, and elsewhere.She writes a lot about identity, the body, and the Vietnamese diaspora and also likes to make zines. Her debut collection, Dear Diaspora, won the 2020 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and comes out September 2021. Visit her at www.susanpoet.com
About Atom City
The city of Oak Ridge did not exist until the Manhattan Engineering District condemned local houses in the rural east Tennessee Valley and quickly developed facilities there to enrich uranium for an atomic bomb. Historian Peter Bacon Hales speaks to this metaphorical “district”:
“Every other [engineering] district served a specific region and was named after the principal city or geographical feature; this new district would be exactly opposite— its functions would be scattered among sites strewn across the country… [General Leslie R.] Groves believed a new district could give the illusion of geographic identity to belie its true nature as a metaphysical entity.”
I bring this history up because reading Hales’s Atomic Spaces was an important catalyst for these poems. His work helped me realize that language, in particular, created obstacles for the Manhattan Project— as well as dangerous opportunities.
My manuscript tries to dig beneath such layers of language: the rhetoric of the Manhattan Engineering District, the the militarization of scientific conversations, the mythologized stories of the local residents of Oak Ridge Valley before it was condemned, the use of such myths to underscore the morality of the bomb, current exhibits at the American Museum of Science and Energy, my own family’s participation in the Project and the stories they’ve hot-potato'd since, the atomification of so much of my hometown (including our high school’s logo), and so on. When I chase these stories, I follow Hales’s call to create a “poetic historical record.”
But even as I attempt to measure the distance between the history of Oak Ridge and the language that continues to affect it, I recognize that my measurements make my own record problematic. I tend to this issue by writing poems that analyze the act of observation and the emotional histories that have shaped me, the observer. As in particle physics: It is necessary to distinguish clearly between the measured value of a quantity and the value resulting from the measurement process.
About Sara Sams
Sara Sams is a writer from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. She is currently researching the influence particle physics has had on contemporary poetics and learning how to be a mom. Sara has spent much of the past decade in Arizona and teaches writing at the University of Arizona. Between 2013 and 2016, she received fellowships to teach at the National University of Singapore and for the Ministry of Education in Logroño, Spain. A graduate of Davidson College and Arizona State University (M.F.A.), her poems and translations have appeared in Blackbird, The Volta, Matter Monthly, The Drunken Boat, Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, and elsewhere. You can find her work online at saraesams.com.
About Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs
Haunting and luminous, Bo Schwabacher’s debut collection, Omma, Sea of Joy and Other Astrological Signs, unfolds like a travelogue. From Seoul to a Chicago suburb to a Naju orphanage, the recurring figure of “An Adopted Korean Girl” moves across intense physical and psychological spaces. The speaker breaks taboos and searches her roots, questioning her birth mother: “Have you ever eaten rice cakes while lying down? / Did you have a fruit-dream about my gender?” For this poet, language exudes a necessary light, guiding her through a dreamlike haze of intergenerational familial abuse and trauma, on her journey towards healing.
About Bo Schwabacher
Bo Schwabacher is a South Korean adoptee. Born in South Korea, she was adopted at three-months-old. Bo grew up in Illinois. Her poems have appeared in Cha, CutBank, diode, The Offing, and others.
Dear Diaspora is an unapologetic reckoning with history, memory, and grief. Parting the weeds on a small American town, this collection sheds light on the intersections of girlhood and diaspora.
"Sara Sams' Atom City opens with a caution, "But Think, Are You Authorized to Tell It." In poems of sharp wit and riveting investigation, tell it she does Aware of the irony of "grow ing] up happy / in a town that knitted / mushroom clouds," Sams documents government duplicity and the revisionist history of developing the atomic bomb.
Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies. Bo Schwabacher's OMMA, SEA OF JOY AND OTHER ASTROLOGICAL SIGNS is a book of equal parts defiance and grief. The Korean adoptee narrator speaks from a place often heavy with silence. Short lines suspended in white space speak to the tenuous grip, the narrow stairs that allow the narrator to contain herself, with great effort.