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First National Retreat For Asian-American Poets To Be Held At U.Va. Aug. 4-8
Poets will give public reading Friday, Aug. 6

July 30, 2004 --

“Oh, how trustworthy our daughters,
how thrifty our sons!
How we've managed to fool the experts
in education, statistic and demography--
We're not very creative but not averse to rote-learning.
Indeed, they can use us.
But the ‘Model Minority’ is a tease.
We know you are watching now,
so we refuse to give you any!”
— from Marilyn Chin’s “How I Got That Name”

Award-winning writers Marilyn Chin and David Mura are among a group of Asian-American poets who will present their work Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. in the University of Virginia’s Newcomb Hall Art Gallery. A reception will follow the poetry reading, which is free and open to the public.

The event is part of the inaugural Kundiman Asian-American Poets' Retreat, the first national workshop designed to address the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian-American poets. In addition to the public reading, three visiting faculty members will conduct workshops and meet one-on-one with each of the 18 participants.

The retreat and reading are sponsored by U.Va.’s Office of the Dean of Students and Kundiman, a New York-based not-for-profit organization committed to the discovery and cultivation of Asian-American poets. The organization’s name refers to a style of Filipino love song that served as veiled patriotism during colonial times.

Kundiman executive director Sarah Gambito, a U.Va. alumna, thought of her alma mater right away when planning the retreat. She turned to assistant dean of students Daisy Rodriguez as an adviser to help with the project. Rodriguez heads up Asian/ Asian Pacific American Student Services.

The strong pressure to assimilate into mainstream American culture is the main reason for planning a retreat specifically for Asian-American poets.

“There has been a tendency in the Asian-American community to dissuade young people from the arts” in favor of more lucrative and high-status careers like medicine and law, Gambito said. If young Asian-Americans do want to become writers, they often feel constrained to fit into a certain popular style, she added. “Through instruction and collaborative programs with established Asian-American poets, as well as through publications and readings open to the public, Kundiman hopes to advance the work of Asian-American writing.”

David Mura, a Minneapolis-based poet, nonfiction writer and performance artist, will give a keynote address for the program, in addition to reading some of his work. Mura’s second book of poetry, “The Colors of Desire,” won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, and his third, “Angels for the Burning,” is forthcoming in November. A “Sansei,” or third-generation, Japanese-American, Mura has written about his cultural experience in two memoirs, “Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei,” and “Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity.” He was featured in Bill Moyers' 1995 PBS series, “The Language of Life,” and has performed throughout the country.

Marilyn Chin, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Ore., has said her poetry “both laments and celebrates my ‘hyphenated’ identity.” Co-director of the master’s of fine arts program at San Diego State University, her latest book of poems is “Rhapsody in Plain Yellow.” Her awards include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Josephine Miles Award and a Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan. She also was featured in the Moyers series.

Rick Barot, who teaches at Washington and Lee University, and Ishle Yi Park, a poet from New York, will also read and work with the participants on their writing. Barot was born in the Philippines and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. Park, a Korean-American woman, has been twice featured on HBO's “Def Poetry Jam,” and her upcoming book, "The Temperature of this Water," will be released this year.

Kundiman has already scheduled a second retreat at the University of Virginia for 2005. For information, e-mail or visit

Contact: Sarah Gambito, executive director, Kundiman , (917) 434-4536,

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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