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!

First Person Plural Reading on January 28

For those of you in the New York City area, I'll be presenting my art and poetry at the First Person Plural Redding Series on January 28! This is a Harlem-based reading series founded by Wendy Walters, Amy Benson, and Stacy Parker Le Melle showcasing work created from the collective "we".

Check out my First Person Plural Interview, discussing process, translation, and more.

The evening also features novelists Stacey D'Erasmo and Michael Thomas, with opening and closing sets by DJ Lady DM starting at 6:45 pm. Meet us at Shrine, 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard, New York, NY

"Bo Suerte" nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize

So pleased to share that my poem "Bo Suerte" was just nominated by Tidal Basin Review for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize. What is the Pushcart? "The Pushcart Prize - Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections."

I feel honored to be among the fellow artist/writer nominees. Much appreciation also goes to Tidal Basin Review for their support of inter-disciplinary art and literature.

"Metal Lungs" published in Drunken Boat #15

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!

Body Maps: Opening May 10

I'm pleased that the piece "Elegy" will also be included in an literary and art exhibition entitled Body Maps, curated by Margaret Rhee.

Opening Reception

Thursday, May 10 - 6:00 pm
Performance 7pm- 8:30pm
$5-$15 sliding scale
RSVP


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.

Presenting Artists:

* 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

Monica's Art on the cover of "On the Refusal to Speak"

Published by Dancing Girl Press, 2012

One of my favorite collaborations was with a wonderful poet, Rebecca Givens Rolland, where I created an interactive experience of one of her poems called Fallow. This month she releases a new chapbook called On the Refusal to Speak, which features some artwork from Fallow on the cover. Her chapbook is published by Dancing Girl Press and is a stunning collection of poems.

Poetry Reading @ University of New Haven

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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: rhorton@newhaven.edu.

Opening Reception: Critical Condition

The opening of Critical Condition: When Silence Speaks was a great success! Thanks to Steve Olsen, my installation specialist, for all his hard work. Check out the highlights of the evening as well we the work.

The exhibition will be up through September 16, 2011. Please contact the Parachute Factory at 203-764-7594 for directions and gallery hours. They did tell me they can make weekend appointments.

Critical Condition opens July 12

Critical Condition opens on July 12 at the Parachute Factory in New Haven. It is an exciting group exhibition not only of artists but also of citizen storytellers via the Center for Digital Storytelling's Silence Speaks Initiative. This exhibition seeks to expose the stories about health that you don't hear, narratives that are underreported, undocumented, and untranslated. And I felt really compelled to open a space for these stories to exists in so that we can think about how it informs the way we seek out health. It seeks to question the structure of the global healthcare system where it is all too easy for women or the other to be invisible.

Featured artists
Liana Dragoman, Monica Ong, Silvia Rigon, and the Center for Digital Storytelling

Operning Reception
Tuesday July 12, 6–8 pm

Gallery Hours
Wednesday: 10 am – 2 pm
Thursday + Friday: 12–5 pm
+ by appointment

Parachute Factory
Erector Square, Building 1
319 Peck Street
New Haven, CT 06513

Statement
This exhibition positions the body as a stage – where embedded beliefs and social constructs collide and re-emerge as transformative narratives about cultural anomalies in public health. These artists and storytellers gather voices of witness and meditation, asking questions that are poignant but pointed.

What happens when a woman’s body cannot be translated? Why do scars persist and what do they teach us about silenced histories? When aberrations in cell growth spell out a terminal condition, what happens to our illusion of security? How do we contend with stigma in the face of sexual abuse or mental illness? These ruptures call on us to revisit – and redefine – the social conditions from which they erupt, spill, and burn into our shared memory.

DOWNLOAD PRESS KIT

Please support this collective of women artists for Critical Condition, an exhibition giving voice to important community issues in public health. All donated funds will help to make this show possible at the Parachute Factory, a collaboration between the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH), the Community Services Network of Greater New Haven (CSN), and the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.

Upcoming Poetry Readings

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?)

 

Critical Condition: Please Support!

 

Please support this collective of women artists for Critical Condition, an exhibition giving voice to important community issues in public health. All donated funds will help to make this show possible at the Parachute Factory, a collaboration between the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH), the Community Services Network of Greater New Haven (CSN), and the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.

Featuring new work by artists Liana Dragoman, Monica Ong Reed, Silvia Rigon, and the Center for Digital Storytelling.

This exhibition positions the body as a stage – where embedded beliefs and social constructs collide and re-emerge as transformative narratives about cultural anomalies in public health. These artists and storytellers gather voices of witness and meditation, asking questions that are poignant but pointed.

What happens when a woman’s body cannot be translated? Why do scars persist and what do they teach us about silenced histories? When aberrations in cell growth spell out a terminal condition, what happens to our illusion of security? How do we contend with stigma in the face of domestic violence or HIV/AIDS? These ruptures call on us to revisit – and redefine – the social conditions from which they erupt, spill, and burn into our shared memory.

See You on the Flip Side! : An Exhibition on Narrative/Identity

February 3 – March 12, 2011 : AC Institute

Recent works by Monica will be featured in a group exhibition "See You on the Flip Side!" on narrative and identity at the AC Institute in the Chelsea gallery district in New York from February 3–March 12, 2011. The exhibition will feature the "Remedies" series as well as the completed "Old Timer's Dis-ease" series that reflects on the cultural-medical experiences in her multi-generational family. 

Miscegeny Rules

Did you know that prior to 1967, my marriage to my husband would have been a FELONY in this country? Pretty ridiculous, right? But sadly enough, there were firm laws in place that made marriage between white persons and non-white persons a felony. And did you know that this kind of legalized race discrimination had been in place in America longer than even slavery or segregation? Yup, from 1664 to 1967!

These laws were introduce by eugenics-supporting legilators, who basically wanted to maintain white supremecy and actively enforced these statutes in one state or another throughout our history until the U.S. Supreme Court case of Loving v. the State of Virginia in 1967. (Well, Alabama waited until 2000 to remove anti-miscegenation language from it's state constitution!)

American Heroes: Mildred and Richard Perry Loving

It was due to the courage of Mildred Loving, who was part African-American and Native-American, and her husband Richard Perry Loving, a Causcasian-American, that these unjusts laws were challenged. They were invaded in their home in Virginia by police who arrested them for co-habitation. Even though Mr. Loving showed them a marriage license, they were charged with violiating the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

On January 6, 1959, the Lovings pleaded guilty and were sentenced to one year in prison, with the sentence suspended for 25 years on condition that the couple leave the state of Virginia. The trial judge in the case, Leon Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, proclaimed that

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

As historian Peggy Pascoe points out, the arguments against interracial marriage are eerily similar to the ludicrous arguments made by the opponents of same-sex marriage:

As Reconstruction collapsed in the late 1870s, legislators, policymakers, and, above all, judges began to marshal the arguments they needed to justify the reinstatement--and subsequent expansion--of miscegenation law.

Here are four of the arguments they used:

1) First, judges claimed that marriage belonged under the control of the states rather than the federal government.

2) Second, they began to define and label all interracial relationships (even longstanding, deeply committed ones) as illicit sex rather than marriage.

3) Third, they insisted that interracial marriage was contrary to God's will, and

4) Fourth, they declared, over and over again, that interracial marriage was somehow "unnatural."

States that specifically banned marriage to Asians include Arizona, California, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

According to this logic, my marriage would be considered "unnatural" and contrary to the will of one cultural group's agreed-upon deity (often referred to as "god"). As the debate about same-sex marriage equality continues, you'll notice many conservative groups using this same reasoning. If I were that deity, I'd be pretty insulted that people would me make out to be so narrow-minded and stupid. If anything, this thing called "god" that these interest groups refer to is nothing more than a mirror of their own laziness, ignorance, and fear of change. She'd be wagging her finger at these groups yelling "Shame!"

The word "unnatural" is actually a term to describe conservative fear of the unknown, the fear of having to actually do the inner work of expanding their experiences and using their brain cells to adapt to new things. It shakes up their simplistic cosmology of a world that is more comfortable to inhabit if things are categorized in "right" and "wrong" or "good and "bad." It is *easier* or more "natural" to be passive and lazy, to stay the same and not have to think. It actually takes effort to learn how to evolve and adapt to the complexities of our changing society, evaluating unique situations with nuance and an open mind. It takes faith in the unknown and a trust in one's potential to try a new path and learn how to embrace others, even if their lifestyle choices differ from one's own. It also requires honest self-evaluation to recognize irrelevant ideologies and have the courage to scrap the ones that just don't make sense anymore.

While the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia finally made it clear that banning interracial marriage is unconstitutional, this human right to marry is still denied to millions of people in the United States today. I think that Asian-Americans should remember that it is because of this court case, these two brave souls who stood up, that we have the right to marry whomever we choose today. I hope that we can show support our fellow Americans by supporting the final act of extending marriage equality to everyone within our lifetime. It just doesn't make sense to me that we can enjoy these hard-won rights and yet still deny it to others.

To learn more on marriage equality check out the Human Rights Campaign.

Hetracil & Narth: Curing Homosexuality

More than 80 million Americans suffer from some type of Homosexuality, and one in eight persons need treatment for Homosexuality during his or her lifetime. Homosexuality is not a character flaw; it is neither a "mood" nor a personal weakness that you can change at will or by "pulling yourself together."

While doing research for a project, I came upon Hetracil, an anti-effeminate medication that claims to cure homosexuality. Yes, I know it's a spoof, but other organizations like Narth (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), tout reparative therapy and actually have a small but influential group of psychotherapists that are trying to do just that. And they actually take themselves seriously. Sadly, Narth is another group of quack therapists who graduated from fifth-tier schools but wear the guise of science in order to "remove our sin" by trying to force preconceived gender roles onto the vulnerable and confused. They continually publish papers disputing science (such as the APA) and claim that homosexuality is caused by emotionally unavailable fathers, sexual abuse, or not getting involved enough with sports – they dispute that homosexuality is biological.

Yes, this is laughable. But people actually believe it - just like some believe man used to ride dinosaurs on saddles and that the earth is still flat.

What interests me are the underlying questions of the search for therapies that are rooted in cultural discomfort rather than medical discomfort. There is this illusion that somehow "curing" oneself of this is a way to remove sin, of reversing the "abnormality" in order to restore a sense of order and "right" - who created that illusion and what is that party's agenda?

Does being hetrosexual guarantee a happy, normal life? Does being straight somehow increase one's morality or ability to create value in society? Let me frame this another way: Does being fat mean that a person will never be successful or beautiful ? Does having a learning disability mean that a person will never be able to achieve anything "worthwhile"? Does being colored mean that one's character is morally suspect? No. It doesn't. There are so many people that can prove every one of these preconceptions wrong. Can one gather alot of circumstancial evidence to build a case trying to prove the faults of each one? Yes, but at the same time it would be just as easy to build a case touting its glory too. My question is, why are we letting a small group of people decide for us what is normal or abnormal? How can we as consumers, patients, minorities exercise our power in the cultural debate?

I think the only "sin" worth removing is the intolerance, the act of denying the fact that each human being has infinite potential to build creative, happy lives just as they are. The discomfort is caused by a set of stale, tired definitions that are obsolete - this "him" and "her" society, the need for simplistic black and white rules that keep people from thinking too hard. Today's complex society is comprised of hybrids, of transient identities, nomadic selves that visit one identity after another in a given moment or a lifetime. To use medical science as a way to manipulate others and enforce so-called cultural standards is not just underhanded but evidence of institutional self-preservation. (In this case, I suspect that the support of religious organizations is not a coincidence).

There are power structures here where authority is preying on the vulnerable's fears in order to exercise a kind of control and obedience. Just think about it, if a man in an official uniform doctor's robe tells you that if you do not follow his advice, you will suffer life-threatening consequences, how do you feel? When you ask questions, they give you very complex, confusing answers, but you nod anyway, because they have a title in their name (like PhD or MD). Hey, they studied this for years (even if it was at some crappy pseudo-med school that you've never even heard of), so they must know what they are talking about, right? "Trust me, I'm a doctor." Wink.

Well, I'm interested in your thoughts. If there was a magic pill that could "cure" you, would you take it? Why?