Powerful Poetry: A Spotlight on 7 Remarkable AAPI Voices in Verse

Poetry is a powerful art in uniting people around the world. Read on to discover 7 eloquent poetry collections by marvelous AAPI writers.

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Book jackets for Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes, The Butterfly's Burden by Mahmoud Darwish, and We the Gathered Heat: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poetry, Performance, and Spoken Word by Noʻu Revilla (Editor), Terisa Siagatonu (Editor), Franny Choi (Editor), Bao Phi (Editor) on a navy blue background framed by light blue flowers.

Poetry is driven by emotion, evoking the senses of the readers through vivid imagery, lush aesthetics, and artistic forms. It can forge connections, bridge gaps, and serve as an interdisciplinary educator between readers, authors, and history. Below are seven remarkable poetry collections by AAPI authors who are enlightening readers on their experiences and uplifting AAPI voices in verse.

A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok

A Nail the Evening Hangs On by Monica Sok book cover. Half is yellow fabric and half is blue.
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Told from the point of view of refugee children, A Nail the Evening Hangs On redefines a family’s narrative after surviving the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian culture, myths, and fables explore history, inherited trauma, grief, and struggle as new generations reconcile with the past and create the future. This healing collection of poems is tender, heartfelt, and full of possibility.

The Butterfly’s Burden by Mahmoud Darwish

The Butterfly's Burden by Mahmoud Darwish book cover. In a square is a blue and white abstract illustration.
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Written by acclaimed Palestinian poet, artist, and activist Mahmoud Darwish, The Butterfly’s Burden is a compilation of two full-length volumes from Darwish, featuring a new memoir-witness poem titled A State of Siege. Darwish meditates on love and longing through sonnets, lyrical songs, and eloquent prose, combining tradition and innovative forms that speak to the heart and soul.

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong book cover. A bouquet of flowers lies against a house.
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In Time is a Mother, Ocean Vuong explores the meaning of life and family in America during tumultuous times. Grappling with personal and social loss, an illustration of the complexities of grief is examined through unflinching, cataclysmic poems with themes of Asian American life, identity, death, and loss.

Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes

Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes book cover. A photo of two people, one inside a home looking over the shoulder of another person outside through a window, are framed by leaves, the wooden village house, and an American flag. The image is in technicolor.
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In a love letter to brown girls who feel unloved, unwanted, and unattractive, Barbara Jane Reyes takes back the narrative by writing of a girl who is sick of prejudice, raising her voice amidst injustice. Using poetry as a way to reconcile the violence committed against her as an immigrant woman of color surviving in a patriarchal society, she uses her rage as a tool, finding grace in her anger and power in her identity.

Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao

Mad Honey Symposium by Sally Wen Mao book cover. Two women standing back to back with long black hair lounge among vibrant, multi-colored flowers and vegetation.
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Sally Wen Mao’s debut poetry collection, Mad Honey Symposium, takes readers on a stunning exploration of humanity, vulnerability, and agency. With themes of nature, her writing is reminiscent of poets such as Sylvia Plath, while also taking on new perspectives and being remarkably authentic and innovative. Through her words, Sally Wen Mao empowers and inspires.

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen book cover. A yellow transparent gem floats in an opening in a foggy forest.
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Not Here talks ferociously about the intersection of being Asian American and queer, meditating on found families and the families one is born into and their accompanying nuances. These acclaimed and heartfelt poems analyze our love and yearning for the past, as well as our encounters with trauma and history.

We the Gathered Heat: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poetry, Performance, and Spoken Word by Noʻu Revilla (Editor), Terisa Siagatonu (Editor), Franny Choi (Editor), Bao Phi (Editor)

We the Gathered Heat: Asian American and Pacific Islander Poetry, Performance, and Spoken Word by Noʻu Revilla (Editor), Terisa Siagatonu (Editor), Franny Choi (Editor), Bao Phi (Editor), book cover. Framed in an orange square is an ornate illustration of a girl, leaves, snakes, eyes, and orbs.
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A poignant, illustrious anthology, We the Gathered Heat brings together an extraordinary group of poets of different languages, countries, and lives to honor their heritages and journeys. Lumped together under the limiting AAPI label, these writers’ poems and prose expand on the sometimes-unfortunate designation, illuminating the differences that should be celebrated instead of being hidden or undervalued.

Read with intention and add these poetry collections to your TBR today!


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