From Start-up to Incubator: Kundiman Means Business (of Innovative Writing)

From Start-up to Incubator: Kundiman Means Business (of Innovative Writing)

Kundiman founders Sarah Gambito and Joseph O. Legaspi, as well as board member Oliver de la Paz, were interviewed by Ploughshares to discuss Kundiman, and the necessity of having a space for Asian American Writers.

“The need for this organization, like anything else, stemmed primarily from personal need and personal loneliness,” says Joseph Legaspi, co-founder of Kundiman, a nonprofit dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian-American writing. But the idea for it occurred when he was feeling neither emotion. He and the poet Sarah Gambito were eating skewered cubes of barbecued beef during a party of Filipino families in a Scarsdale, NY backyard. As they took in everyone’s camaraderie and pleasure at being together, they agreed: “We should have something like this for Asian-American writers.”

Since then, Kundiman has become one of the most exciting and admired literary communities in America. Its story begins with a handful of people, scraping together funds and finding volunteers, to get going.

After their picnic epiphany, Legaspi and Gambito began by talking with respected Asian-American writers about the American poetry community and its institutions. Both poets had recently completed MFAs from well-known schools; both recognized the way those programs could stifle the exploration of race, history, and identity in a workshop setting. They came up with the idea of a five-day long writing retreat.

Gambito provided the seed money by selling stock in the company where she was employed. “It was the Internet craze. At Juno [one of the early providers of dial-up Internet access] I had a huge budget. There was this feeling you could do anything. So, why not something for Asian-American writers?” she says.

Read the rest of the article here.