I am a poet, literary critic, and occasional translator who studies poetry across a range of forms, historical periods, and regions. My new book, Underworld Lit (Wave Books 2020), is a long narrative poem cast in the form of lecture notes for an imaginary course in the humanities—incorporating elements of academic satire, a survivor’s memoir, translations from obscure works of world literature, and a Borgesian journey through the underworlds of various cultures. My work on this project has been supported by fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Creative Capital Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
My previous book of poetry, Voyager (University of California Press 2011), is a work of literary erasure in which I selectively delete words from the English-language memoir of Kurt Waldheim—a former intelligence officer in Hitler’s Wehrmacht who went on, many years later, to serve as Secretary General of the United Nations—in order to expose the multiverse of subtexts concealed within any totalizing dream of identity. Voyager was named one of the best books of poetry in 2011 by The New Yorker, The Believer, and National Public Radio.
My first collection, Facts for Visitors (University of California Press 2004), investigates questions of displacement and unbelonging—frequently in a South Asian context—through a variety of lyric forms, from terza rima and the villanelle to free verse and prose poetry. Facts for Visitors received the 2005 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. My poetry, criticism, and translations have appeared in Harper’s, The Guardian, The New York Times, Lana Turner, and Poetry, and in 2018 I served as a judge for the Griffin Prize in Poetry. I have also been invited to teach as visiting faculty at the Vermont Studio Center, the Naropa Institute, and as a Hurst Visiting Professor at Washington University.
As a scholar in the humanities, my research interests include modern American poetry, theories of global and transnational literature, and contemporary Asian American writing. My critical study, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press 2012), foregrounds a constellation of American writers from Walt Whitman to John Ashbery who cultivate a poetics of digression in order to negotiate formations of knowledge, narration, and identity under the curious conditions of modernity. In Fall 2015, I delivered the Bagley Wright Lectures in Poetry at various venues across the United States, including The Library of Congress, Yale University, Princeton University, and UC-Berkeley; these lectures, on poetry as an “affective technology” within a variety of historical periods and cultural traditions, will be published by Wave Books in 2022.
At the university I teach a variety of courses in literary studies and creative writing, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary crossings between the arts and humanities. Recently, I co-taught an arts studio course titled “Picturing Words/Writing Images” with the sculptor Jessica Stockholder in the Department of Visual Art. In the coming years, I hope to offer more courses that test the boundaries of critical and creative work at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
- Underworld Lit (Wave Books, 2020)
- Conversities, with Daniel Beachy-Quick (1913 Press, 2012)
- Changing Subjects: Digressions in Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2012)
- Readings in World Literature (chapbook, Omnidawn Books, 2011)
- Voyager (University of California Press, 2011)
- Facts for Visitors: Poems (University of California Press, 2004)