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8 AAPI Poets Making An Impact

5 minute read

8 AAPI Poets Making An Impact In Contemporary American Literature

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it’s important to acknowledge the talented AAPI poets that are shaping contemporary American literature with their acclaimed poetry collections. In recent years, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) poets have been making a significant impact in the literary world, sharing their unique stories, experiences, and perspectives through their works. Here are some of the most notable AAPI poets and their works that are worth celebrating.

Amazing AAPI Poetry Collections

Arthur Size

A Chinese American poet, editor, and translator. He has published over ten books of poetry and won numerous awards. His book The Glass Constellation explores themes of time, nature, and the human experience, weaving together disparate elements and creating a dazzling mosaic of language and imagery. Downwind is a beautiful poem where he showcases those beautiful themes.



Photo credit via The New Yorker

Victoria Chang

A Taiwanese American poet and writer known for her poignant and powerful explorations of grief, loss, and the immigrant experience. Chang’s Obit is a raw and emotionally charged exploration of grief and loss, inspired by the death of her mother. Through a series of haunting and powerful poems, Chang reflects on the complexities of mourning and the ways in which it shapes our lives. She has received acclaim and been recognized with awards such as the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. 


by Victoria Chang

Someone said, at first

we want romance, then for life

to be bearable,

at last, understandable.

I am frightened, now

that the trees look like question

marks, how the moon makes

strange noises but it’s daytime.

Bells have begun to notice me.

Chen Chen

A Chinese American poet and essayist whose works often tackle themes of identity, family, and the immigrant experience. Chen Chen’s Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced An Emergency is a poignant and humorous collection of poems that delve into the complexities of identity, family, and love.

Summer‘ is a poem from his poetry collection that really drives home his point of view and his main themes.

Monica Yuan

A Cambodian American poet and writer whose works explore themes of migration, memory, and the complexities of identity. Yuon’s From from: Poems is a striking debut collection that explores themes of migration, memory, and identity. She has received numerous awards for her writing. Those include the Poetry Society of America’s 30 and Under Fellowship. View additional poems from Monica here.



Paul Tran

A Vietnamese American poet and educator known for their work that blends elements of the personal and political to explore themes of gender, sexuality, and trauma. Tran’s All The Flowers Kneeling is a stunning collection of poems. The collection explores the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality. Tran has received recognition for their writing, including the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. We suggesting reading his poem, The Cave.

Ocean Vuong

A Vietnamese American poet, novelist, and essayist known for his powerful and moving explorations of family, love, and identity. Vuong’s Time Is A Mother is a critically acclaimed collection of poems that explores themes of love, trauma, and identity. Vuong has received numerous awards for his writing, including the T.S. Eliot Prize. 

Kissing in Vietnamese

by Ocean Vuong

My grandmother kisses

as if bombs are bursting in the backyard,

where mint and jasmine lace their perfumes

through the kitchen window,

as if somewhere, a body is falling apart

and flames are making their way back

through the intricacies of a young boy’s thigh,

as if to walk out the door, your torso

would dance from exit wounds.

When my grandmother kisses, there would be

no flashy smooching, no western music

of pursed lips, she kisses as if to breathe

you inside her, nose pressed to cheek

so that your scent is relearned

and your sweat pearls into drops of gold

inside her lungs, as if while she holds you

death also, is clutching your wrist.

My grandmother kisses as if history

never ended, as if somewhere

a body is still

falling apart.

Matthew Olzmann

A Korean American poet and essayist known for his unique blend of humor and philosophical insight in his works that explore themes of history, identity, and the human experience. Olzmann’s Constellation Route is a dazzling and inventive collection of poems that playfully explores themes of identity, history, and memory. View his poem Build, Now, a Monument



Wo Chan

Photo credit via PBS

A Chinese American poet, performer, and educator known for their work that explores themes of gender, race, and identity through a variety of mediums, including poetry, film, and performance. Chan’s Togetherness is a powerful and deeply personal collection of poems. It explores the complexities of gender and identity. Through their lyrical and evocative language, Chan creates a rich and nuanced portrait of the queer experience and the ways in which it shapes our lives. In addition to her poetry collection, you can preview three poems by Wo Chan here.

These AAPI poets are just a few of the many talented writers who are making an impact in the literary world today. Their works offer a fresh perspective on the human experience and serve as a powerful reminder of the importance of diversity and representation in literature.

More poems and poets who celebrate diversity here!

Tanya Marion