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Maw Shein Win and Nathalie Khankan with Su Hwang and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
November 10, 2020 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PST
Maw Shein Win and Nathalie Khankan celebrating new Omnidawn Books with Su Hwang and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
reading from new poetry
City Lights celebrates the book launch of
Storage Unit for the Spirit House – by Maw Shein Win
Quiet Orient Riot – by Nathalie Khankan
This is a virtual event that will be hosted by City Lights on the Zoom platform. You will need access to a computer or other device that is capable of accessing the internet. If you have not used Zoom before, you may consider referencing Getting Started with Zoom.
Event is free, but registration is required.
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about Storage Unit for the Spirit House
With sharp focus and startling language, the poems in Maw Shein Win’s second book, Storage Unit for the Spirit House, look through physical objects to glimpse the ephemeral, the material, and the immaterial. Vinyl records, felt wolverines, a belt used to punish children, pain pills, and “show dogs with bejeweled collars” crowd into Win’s real and imagined storage units. Nats, Buddhist animist deities from her family’s homeland of Burma, haunt the book’s six sections. The nats, spirits believed to have the power to influence everyday lives, inhabit the storage units and hover around objects while forgotten children sleep under Mylar blankets and daughters try to see through the haze of a father’s cigarette smoke.
Assemblages of both earthly and noncorporeal possessions throughout the collection become resonant and alive, and Win must summon “a circle of drums and copper bells” to appease the nats who have moved into a long-ago family house. This careful curation of unlikely objects and images becomes an act of ritual collection that uses language to interrogate how pain in life can transform someone into a nat or a siren that lives on. Restrained lines request our imagination as we move with the poet through haunted spaces and the objects that inhabit them.
about Quiet Orient Riot
Tracing the conception of a child through to her birth, Quiet Orient Riot addresses birth regimes and the politics of reproduction, unspooling the many ways that liturgical commands and an intense demographic anxiety affect a journey towards motherhood. Through these poems, Nathalie Khankan considers what it means to bear a Palestinian child in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly with a pregnancy enabled through contingent access to Israel’s sophisticated fertility treatment infrastructure. The poems confront questions of how to be a national vessel and to bear a body whose very creation is enabled by the pronatalist state, yet not recognized by it.
While Quiet Orient Riot chronicles a journey that is specific and localized, the larger questions that emerge from these poems reach beyond this particular story. The book asks questions of itself, wondering what kind of language may hold precarious life and what kind of poem may see an unborn body through emergency, diminishment, and into blossoming.
Through the trials of pregnancy and birth, demographic and religious imperatives, these poems are concerned with many kinds of worship. They bow to a “chirpy printed sound,” “what grows in the rubble,” and “the capacity for happiness despite visual evidence.” Wherever you look, there are water holes for the thirsty and a grove of “little justices.”
Maw Shein Win is the author of Invisible Gifts: Poems and her chapbooks include Ruins of a glittering palace and Score and Bone. Maw is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito (2016–18). She lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Nathalie Khankan teaches Arabic language and literature in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and she is the founding director of the Danish House in Palestine. Her work has previously appeared in the Berkeley Poetry Review, jubilat, and Crab Creek Review. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughters.
Su Hwang is a recipient of the inaugural Jerome Hill Fellowship in Literature, the Academy of America Poets James Wright Prize, and writer-in-residence fellowships to Dickinson House and Hedgebrook, among others, Her debut poetry collection BODEGA, published with Milkweed Editions, won the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards in poetry. Born in Seoul, Korea, Su Hwang has called NYC and San Francisco home before transplanting to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, where she received her MFA in poetry. She teaches with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW), and is the co-founder of Poetry Asylum with poet/educator/activist/healer Sun Yung Shin. She currently lives in South Minneapolis.
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is the author of Cenzontle, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. prize (BOA editions 2018), winner of the 2019 Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award in poetry, a finalist for the Norther California Book Award and named a best book of 2018 by NPR and the New York Public Library. As one of the founders of the Undocupoets campaign, he is a recipient of the Barnes and Noble “Writers for Writers” Award. He holds a B.A. from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan. His work has appeared or is featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, People Magazine, and PBS Newshour, among others. His most recent book is the critically acclaimed Children of the Land published by HarperCollins. He lives in Marysville, California where he teaches poetry to incarcerated youth and also teaches at the Ashland University Low-Res MFA program.
Omnidawn Publishing, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks to support and expand our community of writers and readers through the work they choose to publish, which questions, in both form and content, the prevailing limits of convention. Their intent is to explore internal and external boundaries and push, with compassionate insight, the limits of risk. mnidawn books are frequently reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Rain Taxi, Lana Turner, The Journal, Jacket, and Pleiades, and have been reviewed in Chicago Review, American Book Review, The Village Voice, The Midwest Book Review, The Poetry Project Newsletter, HOW2, The New Review of Literature, Small Press Traffic Newsletter, Electronic Poetry Review, Interim, and ARC (Canada’s National Poetry Magazine), as well as many other publications.