Am pleased to share that a selection of new work from my current series is up over at Waxwing Literary Journal (Spring 2018). This new series engages in explorations of astronomy, the visual language of scientific diagrams, as well as lesser known histories of the cosmos. The three works are "Syzygy," "Woman's Place in the Universe," and "Feather," which I worked on during my stay in Provincetown last summer. I'm very grateful for Elizabeth Bradfield who gave me effective guidance on the revision process.
Just in time for the fall semester! For those of you interested in teaching Silent Anatomies to your poetry, experimental literature, or medical courses, I have made a brand new Reader's Guide available!
It features discussion questions as well as some writing exercises and also a list of suggest reading featuring authors who have been influential to me. Follow the link to the form and download it today!
Recently, Jee Yoon Lee interviewed me about Silent Anatomies for her blog Writing like an Asian:
(Q1) Your debut collection of poetry, Silent Anatomies, opens with "The Glass Larynx." How did you come to choose this poem to be the first one in the book?
"The Glass Larynx" is a contrapuntal poem between Medica, the narrator, and the philosopher Chuang Tzu. She is challenging the idea of silence as the Way. Chuang Tzu's lines are from "Action and Non-Action," where he posits silence and stillness as the "root of all things." Perhaps that is nice if one lives alone on a mountain. Yet we live in an age where "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter," as Dr. Martin Luther King said.
What if attaining the Way is not silence but in our refusal to be silenced? "The Glass Larynx" is Medica's invitation to the reader.
READ MORE →
Now this is getting real. Silent Anatomies, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! A literary hybrid, this book is definitely for the adventurous in poetry, particularly those interested in its intersections with visual art, the medical humanities, and contemporary Asian-American writing. I think of it as my contribution to the Asian-American Avante-Garde, adding a voice to the Chinese diaspora who claim both the Philippines and the United States as home. This book would not be possible without the support and camaraderie of so many people, especially my Kundiman family.
The legendary poet Joy Harjo (2014 Guggenheim Fellow) selected my manuscript "Silent Anatomies" as the winner of the Kore Press 2014 First Book Prize in Poetry! I'm still pinching myself and am reveling with joy, amazement, vindication, and deep appreciation. Of the collection she said:
"This is one of the most unique poetry collections. It's a kind of graphic poetry book, but that's not exactly it either. Poetry unfurls within, outside and through images. The images are stark representations that include bottles that have been excavated from a disappeared age, contemporary ultrasound images of a fetus, family photographs and charts. They establish stark bridges between ancestor and descendant time and presence. This collection is highly experimental and exciting."
I am an admirer of Harjo's multi-disciplinary creative practice, her social activism, and most of all her "crazy brave" heart, from which bold poetry flows. I feel so honored that she saw the heart of my work and frankly, my mind is so blown I hardly have words to describe this.
Overall, it's exciting to now be working towards releasing the book in 2015 and to share this work with a broader audience. I am so appreciative of Kore Press for opening their arms to this special project.
None of this could have happened without my Kundiman family, led by the fearless Sarah Gambito and Joseph Legaspi. Kundiman instilled in me the conviction to believe in and honor the stories we carry within us, that our homelands thrive wherever we use our voices. I also would not have grown as a poet without the generosity of Wendy S. Walters and Randall Horton, whose mentorship not only sustained me but taught me to go for broke.
This winter was difficult to weather for many reasons. But I can definitely say that winter never fails to turn into spring.
My contribution to the Literary Hybrid Book Arts SalonI'm fresh back from the Kenyon Review Writer's Workshop on Literary Hybrid and Book Arts in Gambier, OH. Although it had the fun of summer camp and relaxed atmosphere, I found it to be one of the most productive weeks I have had in a long time. Three new written works mocked up with visuals and six handmade books done within one week of time. As a new mom, this is just what I needed!
This was one of the first workshops of its kind led by literary hybrid Gretchen Henderson and book artist Ellen Sheffield. It was rooted in the writing workshop but modeled after a visual artist's retreat with studio time and techniques. Literary history and theory about artists working on intersection of image+text were covered: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha to Claudia Rankine to Jen Bervin, William Blake to Fluxus artists to Jonathan Safran Foer to Anne Carson. All my heroes in the same seminar - it was very informative to see that although we still think of this as "new" it's really a practice that has existed in the margins for quite a long time.
Above: Tree of Codes by Johnathan Safran Foer. Check out my Image+Text board on Pinterest!I've added many of the artists we discussed onto my Image+Text board on Pinterest so that you can check out the literary experiments.
In terms of my own process, it was the perfect time to hunker down and finish writing the stories that have been sitting in my head for the last few months. I continue to explore narratives that are hidden in the body and have pushed to take them to different sensory spaces, times, and incorporate multiple languages.
What was useful about the writing exercises was the process of working against a constraint or sets of rules that are imposed on oneself. We came with 25 first lines and although I already had ideas of what I would write with them, we were asked to pass them around the classroom and then to write from someone else's first line - which was unexpected but great. Sometimes we were read our poems backward word by word in order to discover new diction. We did erasures of our own lines, broke the poems, put them back together, and also considered the white space on the page as another element of language that challenged our notions of linearity in a work.
"Incarnadine" by Mary SzybistEach night, we also attended readings and heard brand spanking new writing from faculty, fellows, and peer writers in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. It was quite remarkable to see the risks people were taking. In particular, I was stunned by the poetry of Mary Szybist whose spare and simple lines split my heart like a newly sharpened knife in such an elegant and mysterious way. The week culminated with a Book Arts Salon in our studio where we enjoyed the "living library" of books that our class created during the week.
Best of all, I left the workshop with new colleagues and friends. It was definitely a place full of generosity, experimentation, intellectual rigor without the pretention, warmth, and fun. Here are two takeways that I left Kenyon with from our faculty:
1) "Don't think, just do." - Ellen Sheffield
2) "Play is the highest form of research." by Einstein as shared by Gretchen Henderson.
I would recommend this workshop to anyone whose practice straddles the literary and visual arts traditions who are looking for space and time to crystallize their ideas with a balanced consideration of form and content.
Excerpt from "Catching a Wave"
So pleased to share a new piece "Catching a Wave" in Loaded Bicycle, Issue 2.1, released today! This work is created from several ultrasound images, many of which are mine and also of people close to me. It is dedicated to the millions of "missing girls." Please note that the version released in this edition was reformated to fit their web format. The spreads are split and stacked. They were originally designed as an installation where 2 images are side by side on horizontal light boxes - so essentially a triptych of paired images. I think going from object to page has its challenges, but the piece holds up quite nicely online.
I'm delighted to announce that I'll be reading at the Brooklyn Museum on March 23 as part of a panel, "The Fearsome BMI: Women Artists and Representations of the Body," hosted by Judith Brodsky of the Rutger's Institute for Women and Art. This will be one of a two-part series of discussions for Women's History Month:
This panel at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center, Brooklyn Museum, will include speakers who will address contemporary mainstream ideals of beauty and health and their impact on women and diversity as seen through the eyes of contemporary women artists and scholars.
I'm telling you, Harlem is where it's at! It was exhilarating to be reading alongside novelists Stacey D'Erasmo and Michael Thomas at the Shrine for the First Person Plural Reading Series. Here is their recap:
Monica Ong combined projected images and poems to stunning effect. Her first image was a childhood photograph of her mother gathered with her mother and six siblings. The accompanying poem revealed that her mother was one of the three “boys,” dressed and staged so that the family would not lose face from a surfeit of girls. Her next images and poems brought us into human physiology, giving voice to the silent mechanisms of the body– to the body’s frightening failures and the way we fail our bodies through cultural mores and silence. She closed with a moving poem written for the FPP reading in response to the Sandy Hook shootings.
Not only did poets from my Kundiman family come to support, but I was also reuinited with my writing professor from RISD, Wendy Walters, who now teaches at the New School. My best friend from college, Kathy, and her mom also made the long trek to catch the reading as well. The crowd at the Shrine was incredibly warm and welcoming, especially on a cold January evening, and the FPP hosts were just lovely. Thank you Stacy, Amy, and of course, Wendy!
I'm thrilled that the work "Metal Lungs" has been published in the current issue of Drunken Boat as part of the folio entitled Handmade/Homemade, which celebrates the craft of poetry in the context of handmade artist books.
The folio is curated by Deborah Poe and "is being published in conjunction with an exhibition at Pace University in Westchester (with a sister exhibit at Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia) that includes handmade, homemade and letterpress chapbooks, broadsides, one-of-a-kind editions, artist collaborations and the construction of texts from unorthodox materials."
I also want to give a shout out to my Kundiman fellows as well as poetry friend at the Poetry Institute of New Haven for their support!
I'm pleased that the piece "Elegy" will also be included in an literary and art exhibition entitled Body Maps, curated by Margaret Rhee.
Thursday, May 10 - 6:00 pm
Performance 7pm- 8:30pm
$5-$15 sliding scale
Proceeds will benefit partnering organization Bantei Srei and AAWAA.
La Pena Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
Exhibition Statement: Body Maps
Our bodies. Ourselves. Her Asian American body is a historical, political, and emotional site where difference, identity, and freedom are mapped. Our digital age presents a plethora of racialized imagery of her Asian American Body. How to begin? The intergenerational poets and artists of "Body Maps" respond, reclaim, and remap her Asian American body through feminist interventions. "Body Maps" is a feminist exploration, poetic celebration, cartographic journey, in which, we invite you to join us.
* Jai Arun Ravine
* Bonnie Kwong
* Barbara Jane Reyes
* Leah Lakshimi Piepzna-Samarasinha
* Jean Vengua
* Celeste Chan and JDX
* Debbie Yee
* Monica Ong
* Rona Luo
* Kim Tran
* HaeTae and Margaret Rhee
I'm so pleased to be included in the inaugural issue of The New Sound Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Art. This issue features my visual poem "Elegy" - a tribute to one of my dearest friends. I use a found image of the anatomy of the arm, and replace the text with a narrative about this person, who was a mother, violinist, and great friend.
It's great to be featured among a selection of work that blurs boundaries of art and literature and span many social and cultural perspective. It is published by the University of New Haven.
Just wanted to let you know that I'll be a featured reader for the Arts @ Night series at the UNH on Tuesday.
Here is an excerpt of their press release.
NEW HAVEN, CONN. --- A nationally recognized poet and an experimental poet/artist will have poetry readings at the University of New Haven on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m.
Patricia Smith, author of six books of poetry, and Monica Ong, an artist and poet, will read as part of UNH’s Arts@Night series in the Alumni Lounge in Bartels Hall, located on the UNH Main Campus in West Haven.
The program is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by the UNH English department and the Elm City Review. For more information, call (213) 932-9991 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just wanted to share that I'll be doing a few Open Mic poetry events in the coming weeks! I'll be reading from a series of new poems among so many artists that I admire. Please visit the websites for details of these events!
Thursday, May 19 @ 7pm
The Institute Library, 847 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT
The Poetry Institute of New Haven - I'll be part of the regular Open Mic, which will be followed by featured reader Dimitris Lyacos.
Sunday, May 22 @ 5pm
Verlaine, 110 Rivington St, NYC
Kundiman & Verlaine Reading Series - I'll be part of a oint reading with The Acentos Foundation: Rich Villar, Monica Ong, Christina Olivares & April Naoko Heck
Saturday, June 4 @ 4pm
Supper Club Reading Series - A fusion of fine poetry and fusion dining, I'll be reading alongside Shelly Oria. (Did somebody say Chicken Adobo?)