Two Poems

Yanyi

[Robert Hass has a poem named "Fall."]

Robert Hass has a poem named "Fall." It is fall. Today at the farmers market, I eased my eyes on chili peppers so bright and gangly and round that I couldn't hold them all. There were so many. I wondered what they all were holding. In the poem, Hass's "me" and "you" are picking mushrooms with a field guide. They get close to the names of things. What they take from the earth, they try to name in their bodies. What is it like to eat? The tongue splits for what the tongue wants—sour rolling on the bitterness of lime, the sweet tang of tomatoes. Without direction, Taylor gives me a carrot to eat because they are good and in season right now. The carrot is wet inside, and sublime.

 

[Of all the things I have done, I am most proud of our relationship]

Of all the things I have done, I am most proud of our relationship, of picking up the pieces of investing in each other again and again. I am proud to trust you, despite the pain of trusting that lives in me every day. In every way, I was raised to kill this: the impulse to build and protect a place where you and I can live as ourselves. And not just live. When I hear you on the phone, there's always something else going on, something's happened that will change you or change me, and it's not those moments but ourselves that we share with each other. Not out of necessity, but abundance.

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Yanyi is a poet and critic who has received fellowships from the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Poets House, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. He formerly served as curatorial assistant at The Poetry Project and is associate editor at Foundry.

Winner of the 2018 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize.

How can a search for self-knowledge reveal art as a site of community? Yanyi’s arresting and straightforward poems weave experiences of immigration as a Chinese American, of racism, of mental wellness, and of gender from a queer and trans perspective. Between the contrast of high lyric and direct prose poems, Yanyi invites the reader to consider how to speak with multiple identities through trauma, transition, and ordinary life.

These poems constitute an artifact of a groundbreaking and original author whose work reflects a long journey self-guided through tarot, therapy, and the arts. Foregrounding the power of friendship, Yanyi’s poems converse with friends as much as with artists both living and dead, from Agnes Martin to Maggie Nelson to Robin Coste Lewis. This instructive collection gives voice to the multifaceted humanity within all of us and inspires attention, clarity, and hope through art-making and community.

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