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Writer Yanyi Reads A Poem From His Collection, 'The Year Of Blue Water'

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For the writer Yanyi, poetry is everywhere.

YANYI: I've written poetry accidentally while texting my friends, while getting really excited about something. And, you know, you end up going on a rant, or you end up writing a poem.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Yanyi's new book of poetry is called "The Year Of Blue Water," and for National Poetry Month, he read us one of the untitled poems from his collection.

YANYI: (Reading) I've been writing to women, women of color, queers, gentlequeers, spectra, crystals, animals. I want fame with you. I don't want to be famous. Let's redo what it means to be famous. I'm famous because I am in search like you. I have been writing for you. I've been writing for myself. I, too, want to be familiar. What else could famous mean?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YANYI: So this poem is me thinking about fame obviously but about what it means to empathize with other people and with ourselves, of learning how to become familiar to yourself, of starting to become interested in one's own life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YANYI: The first reader who you have when you first write something is you. If you aren't feeling connected to yourself - poetry for me has become a place where I can get closer to my body. Especially growing up as a young woman, I felt as though there were so many expectations put on me in terms of what my body was supposed to be like that I internalized. And creating a writing practice around my own desires and my own interests was crucial to me discovering what I desired about my gender and about my queerness that I eventually incorporated into my own life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

YANYI: Poetry in particular is a way of responding to speechlessness. Why are we afraid to speak? Something that I've been thinking a lot about is the political atmosphere that we're living in right now. And I think there is this sense of urgency or emergency of, I'm not doing enough; we're not doing enough. And one of the things that poetry is really good for is accepting what you're not able to do and to notice and believe that there are other people in the world who are doing very small things that will ultimately be able to move things at a scale that you can't even imagine right now.

CHANG: "That was poet Yanyi. He won the Yale Younger Poets prize for his new book, The" Year Of Blue Water. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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