One Should Not Sleep Anymore: Poet Wing Tek Lum and the Virtues of Unpleasantness by Ken Chen

Poet Ken Chen recently wrote of Wing Tek Lum’s reading on the atrocities of war at The Asian Americans’ Workshop.

Here is an excerpt:

I recently hosted the most unpleasant literary reading I’ve ever attended–a poetic listening experience so wondrously uncomfortable that it led me to think about the purpose of poetry readings and the expectations we have of poetry itself. My literary arts space, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, curated a reading titled DO YOU COPY, which featured three poets from different geopolitical milieus documenting the experience of war. The first two—Filipino American poet Luis Francia and Persian poet Kaveh Bassiri—read work about the Philippine American War, the Iran-Iraq War and September 11th. Some members of the audience were moved by these poems and began crying, but the tears they shed did not express discomfort but aesthetic or moral edification. Although these poems possessed war as their subject matter, they remained more beautiful than war. And then the last reader walked onstage and for thirty unrelenting minutes, read a series of poems describing, among other things, a soldier attempting to wrest his blade loose from a body whose head he is sawing off, a man killing a dog gnawing on a detached human arm, and a woman, who has presumably just been raped, with a live grenade forcibly inserted into one of her orifices. Welcome to the work of Wing Tek Lum, an American Book Award-winning Hawaii-based poet who is slowly, without anyone noticing, building one of the most terrifying oeuvres of contemporary poetry.

To read the full article, head on over to The New York Foundation for the Arts.

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