Writing like an Asian: Five Questions with Monica

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.

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Poets & Writers Magazine: What Inspires?

Recently, Poets & Writers Magazine asked me to share thoughts about what inspires me as a writer and helps me cultivate my creativity. Learn about my Golden Hour, my obsession with choreo vids, and the one thing that keeps me from being deadlocked:

“My reality consists of full-time work, parenting, family, friends, and a laptop full of clients. When to write? One shift I made was to identify my ‘golden hour,’ the most conducive time of day for creative risk-taking, making, and doing. My husband is a night owl, but for me, it’s 4:00 AM to 6:00 AM. Everyone’s asleep, I’m freshly energized and not yet cluttered with the day’s noise...."


FULL ARTICLE →

Source: http://www.pw.org/content/monica_ong

For the Love of Letterpress

Join me for a behind the scenes peek into the studio of Dexterity Press, where the broadsides for Silent Anatomies were made. Producing these poems with this unique process was an enjoyable collaboration made possible by Jeff Mueller who patiently fielded my ideas and was willing to go the extra mile to translate those ideas into one-of-a-kind art pieces.

GALLERY: Each broadside is printed on a Vandercook Universal 1 proof press using wood-mounted 16g magnesium dies on luscious archival paper, 100lb Mohawk Superfine softwhite, eggshell finish. The other press that you see above is used to do blind embossing.

Collaboration is key to the success to making a design distinct for letterpress. I learned that it is not at all like the digital prepress work that I'm so used to doing. Rather, even when at press, there is a bit of improvisation and resourcefulness that goes on to make all the visual elements and text work together. For example, my original images of the poems are layered on scans of pages of vintage medical books. We wanted something that felt more tactile so Jeff suggested using natural woodblocks that feature beautiful grain textures. We also experimented with background colors that were different than the off white of the originals. The results were astounding. Below is "The Glass Larynx" which has a robin egg blue background, evoking a kind of fragility and translucence.

When planning these it's important to consider what the final context will be. In this case, I wanted something that readers and art lovers could collect and easily bring home from book signings. I also wanted these to display well together in gallery spaces. Even though each work was created individually at different times, when presented together, they will visually talk to each other and therefore it's important to make choices that allow them to harmonize.

We discussed choices that would make each work distinct, such as using complementary hues for each background. To unify them typographically as a series Jeff also shifted some type to have similar placement across all three pieces. Having two people with a real appreciation for type and design definitely made this more than just printing a page, it's actually more about translating a poem into the realm of precious object.

With patience and the ability to make room for surprise, we are then able to feel the joy of astonishment.

Silent Anatomies now available for Pre-Order!

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.

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Anatomies-Win...

Cultural Silence and APA Health: Artist Talk at Chinese School in Greenwich

 Silent Treatment

Silent Treatment

I'm pleased to be giving an artist talk on Sunday, October 5, 10:30 am, at the Chinese Language School of Connecticut, Located at the Eastern Middle School in Greenwich, CT. Along with presenting artwork and poetry from my forthcoming book Silent Anatomies, there will also be a discussion about health resources in Connecticut for Asian Americans. It's thrilling for me as an artist because it's a way of taking art that is often limited to galleries or libraries and connecting directly with parents and families.

One of the goals of my work is to raise awareness about the way we silence ourselves and how those consequences play out in the APA community's health outcomes. Whether it's stigma about mental health issues or domestic abuse, or lack of services that provide translation or culturally aware health professionals, I hope these conversations help to generate a shift from silence to dialogue within the community.

Special thanks to the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission for their guidance and for providing useful materials on health resources.

Joy Harjo selects Monica Ong as the Winner of the 2014 Kore Press First Book Prize

 Joy Harjo, distinguished poet and 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, was this year's judge for the Kore Press First Book Prize in Poetry.

Joy Harjo, distinguished poet and 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, was this year's judge for the Kore Press First Book Prize in Poetry.

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.

 

Design kudos for the
Yale School of Music website

As you know, I've been designing for the Yale School of Music for the last six years and have led many new media initiatives there. This fall we launched the new website, which was a collaboration with Madison Mott, based in Westport. With their advice about user flows, personas, and content strategy, I designed new page types to encourage more interaction and more focused content for specific users. Their team then developed those pages and implemented the design in Wordpress. It was great to work w/ them and this is the article they posted about the collaboration.

From their blog:

"We started in June of 2011 with key stakeholder interviews: students, alumni, faculty, and various constituents. We then converted the findings into personas and use cases meant to drive relevant information architecture, flows and wireframes. We balanced the best practices of platform development with the nuances of musical and technological innovation, and a strategic approach to scalable architecture.

For this project, we passed the design baton to the incredibly talented in-house designer at YSM, Monica Ong Reed, whose skills as a creative are second only to her charm as a human being. The same can be said for the entire YSM Communications team, all virtuosos in their own right (Dana Astmann, Austin Kase, and their fearless leader Michael Yaffe, among others), proving that assembling the right team is key to garnering that standing ovation."

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March 23 Reading at the Brooklyn Museum

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.

Come check it out!

First Person Plural: The Recap

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:

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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.

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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!