Conversation with Janine Oshiro, Kundiman Poetry Prize Winner

Conversation with Janine Oshiro, Inaugural Kundiman Poetry Prize Winner

As we near the end of our submissions period for the Kundiman Poetry Prize (due March 15!), we asked previous winners what insight they have for future applicants looking to submit their manuscript.

Check out below what Janine Oshiro, whose book Pier won the 2010 Poetry Prize, had to say!

1) What was going through your head when you were writing the poems in the manuscript you submitted for the Poetry Prize? What were your inspirations and motivations?

In my poem "Duck Hunting," I make the command and ask the question, "Say it. How do I be inside of me?" This is the major preoccupation of the book. How do I exist in this body that will eventually die? How do I say goodbye to my mother, whose body is gone, but whose presence I still feel? And what joy can I find in the saying, in the making of poems? I was inspired by too many poets to name, poets I know through books and workshops, but two poets I was reading consistently when I worked on Pier were A.R. Ammons and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Their work continues to resonate with me and challenge me.

2) What are you working on now?

For many years now I have been working on some essays that may or may not grow into something bigger and less essay-like. I still feel uncertain about what I'm doing with these particular chunks of words, but I'm devoted to the work and seeing what may come of it.

3) What advice do you have for writers looking to submit their manuscript?

It took me a long time to start thinking of my poems as a manuscript. I think other people saw the potential for a collection before I did and helped me to conceive of it as a book. I was just focused on one poem, the poem that was in front of me. I really needed other people to help me see the work as a whole. Cultivating writing friendships and being open to change and play with the manuscript is key.

Janine Oshiro is the author of Pier, winner of the 2010 Kundiman Poetry Prize, published by Alice James Books. She has been awarded the 2011 Elliot Cades Award for Literature in Hawaiʻi and the 2013 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. She lives in Hawaiʻi, where she is currently studying massage therapy.


A Conversation with Rajiv Mohabir, Kundiman Poetry Prize Winner

A Conversation with Rajiv Mohabir, Kundiman Poetry Prize Winner 

As we near the end of our submissions period for the Kundiman Poetry Prize (due March 15!), we asked previous winners what insight they have for future applicants looking to submit their manuscript.

Check out below what Rajiv Mohabir, whose book The Cowherd's Son was the winner of our 2015 Poetry Prize, had to say!


1) What was going through your head when you were writing the poems in the manuscript you submitted for the Poetry Prize? What were your inspirations and motivations?

I wrote the majority of the poems in The Cowherd’s Son while putting together The Taxidermist’s Cut (Four Way Books), my first book. The poems in The Cowherd’s Son focus on the religious and mythological traditions that I have inherited as a second generation Indo-Caribbean. A patchwork of Muslim, Hindu, and Christian shape the tone of this collection.

I was inspired by my Aji’s songs and stories. My poems are a kind of translation of her poetic. I attempt to cycle her songs again but from my own particular generation and idiom. I am inspired by the poems of Bhojpuri folk music, Kabir, Mirabai, Sudesh Mishra, and Rooplal Monar. American poets like Roger Sedarat, Agha Shahid Ali, Craig Santos Perez, Eduardo C. Corral, Rigoberto González, and so many others also inflect my craft decisions and my lyric impulses.

When it came to putting the manuscript together, it was Oliver de la Paz at the 2013 Kundiman retreat who told me to pull out the poems about mythology from my taxidermy poems. I couldn’t just abandon this clutch that sung of the coolie diaspora—I still felt them move me. Allison Adelle Hedge Coke sat with me on the floor of Sinclair Library at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa and together we stitched the poems together.

2) What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on two book manuscripts. The first is a collection of poems I call “chutney poems.” I kind of invent a formal poem based on the structure of a syncretic form of Indo-Caribbean dance/folk music to pay tribute to the oral traditions that I come from. The language is filled with triple entendre play and recklessness, crackling in and out of Guyanese Creole, Bhojpuri, and English.

My second manuscript is a memoir that I’ve tentatively titled “Antiman” that centers my transition from Orlando, Florida to Varanasi, India to New York City—together about a seven year span from when I worked as a teacher in the NYC Department of Education to when I did my MFA at Queens College. In it I write about my experiences with going to India for the first time since my ancestors left over 120 years ago, my encounters with Indo-Caribbean music, and navigating familial space as a queer.

3) What advice do you have for writers looking to submit their manuscript?

My advice to writers who are working at their first collections, is to write through rejections. Rejections are hard—still, revise and resubmit. Transform every last rejection you get into determination to edit, to push yourself harder. Keep going, reading along the way. You will learn all kinds of things about yourself along the way. The publishing world is 89% white. It’s an industry clearly stacked against writers of color, queer and trans writers, disabled writers, writers with “complicated” (read non-cisheteropatriarchal “able-bodied”) identities, etc.

Also, you are not alone. So many people say that to be a writer is to be alone. There are other writers out there who are struggling as you are. Find them. Share your work. Be open to hearing critiques. Share your favorite books. Kundiman is proof that a community can feed you along this path. Again, you are not alone.


Rajiv Mohabir is the author of The Taxidermist's Cut (Four Way Books, winner of the Intro to Poetry Prize) and The Cowherd's Son. Read more about him at www.rajivmohabir.com.

Kundiman & The Home School Partnership

Kundiman and The Home School would like to announce their inaugural partnership and name Rajiv Mohabir as the recipient of a Home School Miami 2016 scholarship! He will be receiving a full tuition waiver (1175 USD) plus a travel honorarium (500 USD) for the full residency as the winner of the 2015 Kundiman Book Prize.

The Home School organizes weeklong conferences for poets and artists. Home School participants spend six days immersed in an intensive program that foregrounds interdisciplinary experimentation and collaboration.

Apply to The Home School residency by the free early-bird deadline of August 31 to participate in Home School activities. 

Miami Beach, Florida: 

Home School Miami 2016 will feature core poetry faculty: Timothy Donnelly, Adam Fitzgerald, Cathy Park Hong, Dorothea Lasky, Tan Lin, Maggie Nelson and Mónica de la Torre. Visiting poets: Natalie Diaz, Renee Gladman, Mira Gonzalez, Jorie Graham and Derek Walcott. 

2010 Intergenerational Writers Lab (IWL)

2010 Intergenerational Writers Lab (IWL)

A program of Kearny Street Workshop, Intersection for the Arts and AMATE: Women Painting Stories
with Ben Fong-Torres, Genny Lim, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Leticia Hernandez

A unique program with three of SF's community-based interdisciplinary arts organizations designed to thoroughly explore and develop your writing. Accepted applicants will participate in eight workshops led by accomplished writers and artists, engage in and be inspired by other artistic genres, perform their work at a public event, be published in online anthology, and have the opportunity to develop a communal network of writing peers.

Click here to download the application.


SF-based arts organizations, Kearny Street Workshop, Intersection for the Arts and Amate: Women Painting Stories. are seeking applications for, the 7th annual Intergenerational Writers Lab (IWL), a literary program for emerging writers, scheduled to take place April 3 - May 22, 2010 (Saturdays, 10 am – 1 pm). Twelve students will be selected to participate in the literary program which will involve a series of workshops, a public reading, and an online anthology publication. IWL workshops will be led by Lorna Dee Cervantes, Leticia Hernandez, Ben Fong-Torres and Genny Lim. The IWL will conclude with a public reading in early July at Intersection for the Arts.

The goals of the IWL program include the following:

  1. to provide twelve local emerging writers/artists with the opportunity to challenge, develop, and expand their practice by working with established writers in a variety of genres;
  2. to contribute to the development of new literary forms and language that incorporate multiple forms of creative expression;
  3. to provide emerging artists with the opportunity to create community by connecting and working with each other and with established writers in the literary world;
  4. to provide the larger community with an opportunity to engage with new work and new explorations of form and language;
  5. to publish an online anthology that highlights work by exciting new writers committed to exploring new forms and voices.


lornadeeLorna Dee Cervantes
A fifth-generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) heritage, Lorna Dee Cervantes was a pivotal figure throughout the Chicano literary movement. She began publishing the literary journal Mango in the mid 1970s. Lorna is a dynamic poet who draws tremendous power from her struggles in the literary and political trenches. Her poetry has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines, award-winning anthologies, and over 150 textbooks. Lorna has taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder and San Francisco State University. She has received two National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowships, a prestigious Lila Wallace Readers Digest Fellowship, and two Pushcart Prizes. (Photo by Francisco Dominguez).


leticiaLeticia Hernandez
Writer and educator, Leticia Hernandez, has presented her music and teatro-infused poetry throughout the country and in El Salvador for over 10 years. Her writing has appeared in newspapers, anthologies and literary journals, some of which include, Street Art San Francisco, and Latino Literature Today. Her chapbook of poetry Razor Edges of my Tongue was published by Calaca Press in 2002. She has taught literature, creative writing, and worked with youth and community-based organizations throughout California, and currently serves as the Executive Director of GirlSource, a non-profit organization that supports and empowers young women in San Francisco. The San Francisco Arts Commission recently awarded her an Individual Artist Grant to complete a poetry manuscript and spoken word/music album entitled Mucha Muchacha. Too Much Girl.

benfongtorresBen Fong-Torres
Ben Fong-Torres is a radio, broadcast and print journalist who wrote for Rolling Stone for 13 years and the San Francisco Chronicle for 11 years. He was born in Alameda, Calif. and was raised in Oakland Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. He won a Billboard Award for San Francisco: What a Long Strange Trip It's Been, a syndicated radio special that Ben wrote and narrated. Ben has authored six books, including Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll, The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio, and his memoirs The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese-American from Number Two Son to Rock & Roll. (Photo by Pat Johnson Studios).

gennylimGenny Lim
Genny Lim’s live and recorded poetry/music collaborations include jazz greats Max Roach, Herbie Lewis, Francis Wong and Jon Jang. She's performed at jazz festivals in San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Houston and Chicago, and has been a featured poet at World Poetry Festivals in Venezuela (2005), Sarajevo (2007) and Naples (2009). Her play “Paper Angels,” was performed at Settlement House in New York City in 2009, and her performance piece “Where is Tibet?” premiered at CounterPULSE, Dec. 2009. She is the author of two poetry collections, Winter Place, Child of War and co-author of Island:Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island. Genny is a adjunct faculty at CIIS. (Photo by Bob Hsiang).

We are looking for local (SF Bay Area) emerging writers and multidisciplinary artists who wish to develop and expand their practice and skills by experimenting with new forms and taking risks in creative expression. Selected participants will participate in eight workshop sessions of three hours duration each (all workshop sessions will take place on Saturday mornings) and will have the opportunity to attend and participate in a public event at Intersection. Writers need not be published, but must demonstrate a consistent pursuit of the arts and a deep interest in participating in an experimental writing program.

Please submit the following:

  1. An IWL 2010 application form;
  2. Writing sample, 12 point & double-spaced, not to exceed 7 pages;
  3. A description of why you want to enroll in the IWL program, not to exceed 500 words.
  4. A submission fee of $10 (check or money order made out to Intersection for the Arts). Please note: submission fees are used to cover artist fees, the online publication, and partial and full scholarships. Submission fees may be waived on as-need basis, and per applicant request. To request a submission fee waiver, please contact KSW at info@kearnystreet.org.

The tuition for accepted IWL participants is $425, (two full or four partial scholarships are available). Tuition levels will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on individual participant needs. If you wish to be considered for a partial or full scholarship, please submit an additional description of your circumstances and why you believe you deserve a scholarship.

Please submit all materials and application fee to:
Intersection for the Arts
Attention: IWL 2009
446 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

For more information, please contact:
Ellen Oh, Executive Director
Kearny Street Workshop

Rebeka Rodriguez, Program Director
Intersection for the Arts
415.626.2787 ext108

Leticia Hernandez, Director
AMATE: Women Painting Stories

Elma Stuckey Liberal Arts and Sciences Emerging Poet-in-Residence

Elma StuckeyColumbia College Chicago is an urban institution of over 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students emphasizing arts, media, and communications in a liberal arts setting. The Department of English is seeking applications for an annual, one-year, non-renewable position to start in August 2010. Poets from underrepresented communities and/or those who bring diverse cultural, ethnic, theoretical, and national perspectives to their writing and teaching are particularly encouraged to apply.

Position is named for Elma Stuckey, a poet born in Memphis who lived in Chicago for more than 40 years. Author of The Big Gate (1976) and The Collected Poems of Elma Stuckey (1987), she has been described as "the A.E. Housman of slavery"-a poet who recast for contemporary readers "those things that were kept from the ears of the unknowing slavemasters."

The Creative Writing, Poetry Program has a commitment to excellence in teaching and is founded upon strong ties between the study of literature and the practice of creative expression. An active reading series brings well-known poets to campus monthly; faculty and students also produce two national literary magazines: Court Green and Columbia Poetry Review.

Successful candidate will teach one course per semester (undergraduate workshop, craft, and/or literature seminars), give a public reading, and possibly supervise a small number of graduate theses. Qualified candidates will have received an MFA in poetry or PhD in English (with creative dissertation) or other relevant terminal degree in past five years, demonstrate experience and excellence in college-level teaching, and have strong record of publication in national literary magazines.

Columbia College Chicago encourages female, Deaf, LGBTQ, disabled, international, and minority individuals to apply for all positions. Position is contingent on funding. Salary: $30,000, benefits not included. Application deadline: 02/05/10. To be considered, please send cover letter, CV, 5-page sample of published poetry, sample syllabus for undergraduate or graduate-level poetry workshop or literature course, three letters of recommendation (at least one should address teaching), and statement of teaching philosophy as Word or PDF files to Dr. Lisa Fishman at: EnglishPoet@colum.edu.

Fellowship: Stadler Center for Poetry

Bucknell University
. Stadler Center for Poetry. The 2010-11 Emerging Writer Fellowship offers professional training in arts administration & literary editing in a thriving, university-based poetry center, while also providing the Fellow time to pursue his or her own writing. The Emerging Writer Fellow assists for 20 hours each week in the administration of the Stadler Center for Poetry &/or in the editing of West Branch, a nationally distinguished literary journal. The Fellow also serves as an instructor in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets in June. The Fellowship stipend is $20,000. Unlike the related Stadler Fellowship, the Emerging Writer Fellowship currently does not include housing or health insurance. All campus academic, cultural, & recreational facilities are available to the Emerging Writer Fellow. To be eligible, an applicant must be at least 21 years of age, must have received an advanced degree in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry (i.e. MFA, MA, PhD) no earlier than spring 2005, & must not be enrolled as a student during the period of the Fellowship. (Persons enrolled in a college or university at the time of application are eligible.) The Emerging Writer Fellowship is potentially renewable for a second year pending funding. Submit the following items by postal mail: letter of application, curriculum vita, three letters of recommendation, a poetry sample of no more than 10 pp., to: Emerging Writer Fellowship, Stadler Center for Poetry, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837. No materials will be returned; please do not send originals. Postmark deadline: Wednesday, February 10. Notification: late spring 2010. For more information on the Stadler Center for Poetry, see our website: www.bucknell.edu/stadlercenter (AWP)

Call for Submissions: Storyscape

Dear Storyscape Fans,

We are writing to announce that:

1. we're open to it

We are now once again reading, listening to, and viewing: submissions, this time for the highly anticipated and much-rumored-about-in-dark-bars  ISSUE 5!  

Please visit the site for submission guidelines, and pass along the news to your friends. 
As usual we are looking for the unusual.  Please send us your craftiest.


2. everybody just be cool

For those of you who made it to the ISSUE 3 journal launch party and remember Ken Cormier's fabulous performance of "Everybody Just Be Cool" alongside his Storyscape piece "The Sounds of Lunch" will be thrilled to know that this song (among others) is now available from Itunes.  His CD of hits is called Nowhere is Nowhere.

That's all for now!

happy storytelling,
Storyscape Journal