Poetry of Diaspora hosts a reading
Recently, Mosaic America invited the Poetry of Diaspora group to host a poetry reading for the community at the San Jose Art Festival. More than a dozen poets sat in the Circle of Palms plaza in front of the San Jose Museum of Art, under a tent, to read and listen to poems, in many languages.
These poetry lovers have met in my living room and garden to read for a few years now and volunteer to read for the community as a way to bring the joy of poetry to everyday spaces where someone might stumble upon a poem that they love.
Amongst the many poets who read at this event was Sagaree Jain, who read a poem from her book Shrines.
Sagaree Jain explores identity
In the poem ‘Shrine to Asafotida,’ Jain explores the questions of identity, as a child of immigrants, and straddling multiple worlds, to figure out where one might find that sense of belonging that seems to be crucial for all humans.
Poetry turns words into power and when poets read their own heartfelt words in a diverse community of readers – many of whom will interpret their poems in their own unique contexts – there is a certain courage that must be embodied to make oneself this vulnerable. As a listener, I might not recall the exact words or phrases or even the title of a poem but I can recall the electrifying delivery that made everyone pay rapt attention, immediately.
The commanding presence of Sagaree had everyone belonging to their poem. At this juncture, I reached for one of the books in front of me and opened it to find a poem by a UK-based poet, Usha Kishore, from the anthology, Home Thoughts. As if the material objects were also touched by the poetry being recited, this poem too was about an immigrant’s experience.
Hometown & the immigrant experience
The former Cupertino poet laureate, Jing Jing Yang, followed me as a poetry reader at the event. She read a poem from her book that was a memory of her mother back in China. Yang’s poems too were about the immigrant experience, being the daughter of immigrants, and then about missing the mother left behind in the country one emigrated from.
Brandon Luu, a board member of the San Jose Poetry Center, read next. He chose a poem about his beloved hometown, San Jose. That shout-out of love for the city of San Jose gave me a sense of belonging and immediately brought about a sense of relief from the heat and noise of the afternoon. I shared his love for this city that I had visited often, but somehow saw as a big bustling compared to the suburban smaller town half-hour north of San Jose, that I call home.
Discovering the unexpected
These are the unexpected rewards of reading poems in the community, of taking poetry out from the comfort of the living room to discover what might await us. I left the afternoon awakened to fresh possibilities, and an inspiration to continue. Where else could one have a quick, civil, poetic dialog on subjects traversing three continents, spanning three or four generations, from the perspectives of those who stay in the town they were born in, of those who leave, and those who are trying to understand where they want to be, in that particular moment?
Here’s to going on epic poetic adventures with poets and poetry lovers. The next one, coming soon, on October 1st, from 3 pm to 5 pm, also in San Jose, is at the Mosaic Festival in Mexican Heritage Plaza. You are invited. Read us a poem or just come to listen.