"Here Is A Pen"
an anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets
cover art by Monica Ong Reed
Kundiman. A love song and rebel cry. A community we were waiting for, our whole lives.
2009 signaled many changes for Kundiman, an organization dedicated to providing a nurturing space for Asian American poets. Like other arts organizations, Kundiman experienced cuts in funding in the economic downturn. In particular, organizations that foster marginalized communities and in the arts, no less, are often the first castoffs for a pool of limited resources. With this knowledge, current and alumni Kundiman fellows nationally began to organize fundraising efforts so the annual retreat would not be compromised or cancelled. The annual retreat provides a safe yet rigorous space where Asian American poets can explore, through art, the unique challenges that face the new and ever changing diaspora. For West Coast Kundiman poets, even in down times, this was an opportunity to give back to the organization and also foster community and strength.
Hearing of this predicament, Achiote Press offered to publish and sponsor a special project chapbook anthology in which proceeds will go to Kundiman, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For this special chapbook anthology, we solicited poems from Kundiman fellows with residences and roots in the western states and those involved in fundraising efforts. This beginning was a pursuit of movement, collaboration, and creation of home, regardless of crisis.
Another event in 2009 that brought the Kundiman family together: Melissa Roxas's kidnap and torture while doing humanitarian activist health work in the Philippines. The collective worry and prayers for her safety during her disappearance and capture ignited a sense of solidarity beyond geography for most, if not all, Kundiman poets. When Melissa returned safely, she relayed that during the torture it was "poetry that kept [her] sane." It also showed how poetry matters for pure survival in the midst of a world filled with madness.
In this collection of poems, the world, home, travel, desire, and longing - to create a world that we can live and call home - revealed themselves over and over. We had found a theme. These themes resonate with not only the home poets find in Charlottesville, VA at the annual Kundiman retreat, but the implications of home we find in our bodies, our languages, our poetry. Moreover, these poems illuminate diasphoric, spiritual, and political connections and possibilities, imagined and realized. For many of us, Kundiman is home, and poetry is a way to make sense of this "world" and begin to create the world in which we want to live.
We hope you will also stay with these poems and enjoy the journey with us, making our worlds a better place.
Ching-In Chen (Riverside, CA), Margaret Rhee (Berkeley, CA), and Debbie Yee (San Francisco, CA)
Neil Aitken, Tamiko Beyer, Ching-In Chen, Marilyn Chin, Oliver de la Paz, Vanessa Huang, Janine Joseph, Joseph O. Legaspi, Ngoc Luu, Sally Wen Mao, Noel Pabillo Mariano, Soham Patel, Jai Arun Ravine, Margaret Rhee, Melissa Roxas, Brynn Saito, Sharon Suzuki-Martinez, Yael Villafranca, Andre Yang, and Debbie Yee