janine oshiro

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.