From Poets House Fellowship to Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize
A 2015 Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow, Yanyi is the author of the forthcoming The Year of Blue Water, winner of the 2018 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Carl Phillips, the judge for the award, described the poems in Yanyi’s collection as an invitation “into the life they invoke, a life that both argues for and is an example of how identity is multifaceted: the poems’ speaker is an artist, of an apparent immigrant background, is trans, is deeply invested in friendship as a rescuing form of community.”
Yanyi discussed his experience of friendship and community at Poets House—as an aspiring poet and as an Emerging Poets Fellow—at the Poetry Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge on June 11, 2018. The following are his remarks from that program.
I was asked to give a few remarks on the Emerging Poets Fellowship, where I was a Fellow in 2015, but in order to talk about it, I have to talk about 2014. 2014 was a year of grief for me, and for that entire year, starting in mid-January, I started going to Poets House every Saturday that I could, in an effort to do something that made me feel happy. I met Joe Fritsch, then the Programs Coordinator in the space, over a dictionary definition, and many Saturdays after that, I’d come and talk to Joe first, talking about poetry and life, before I got to my reading. Joe was the one who encouraged me to apply to the Emerging Poets Fellowship, something I didn’t yet have the courage to do, afflicted with imposter syndrome as many young women in their early twenties are. I missed the deadline. And yet, the deadline was extended, and I took that as a sign. So that’s how I spent three months with ten brilliant poets with a terrific diversity of styles, thematic concerns, and backgrounds, in the very first fellowship I had ever been awarded for poetry. But the point I’m making is that fellowship begins before the fellowship: that Poets House is a community of its incredible staff and collection first, a fellowship that you don’t have to apply to, and for people who don’t yet believe they are poets. That is the only way I could have emerged, in the permanence of that existing community.
Yanyi is an associate editor at Foundry and an MFA candidate at New York University. He formerly served as Director of Technology and Design at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, senior editor at Nat. Brut, and curatorial assistant at The Poetry Project. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the Asian American Writers Workshop as well as Poets House.