NEA Literature Fellowships

Tung-Hui Hu

Back to NEA Literature Fellowships
(2015 - Poetry)


Newark, New Jersey, is not America's renaissance
city, as I wrote previously; that is Pittsburgh.
Newark is dying and has a bleak future.
A recent poem implies that I am lonely.
I am not, my mouth is just shaped that way,
small and sad-looking. And due to an editing error,
our dog is listed as our pack leader. This is a mistake;
our leader is the president, who governs
with the consent of the people. But if even people
are mistaken? Then I believe in amnesty.
Each side to marry their enemy, ghosts to live
peacefully among us like months waiting
to turn thick and flush with moisture. Calendar
and chronicle annulled. Unlink names from
their dead and return names to where they
may be changed and forgotten and used again.
And faces? Faces, too. Let the oceans be milk-white
with the accumulated light of old photographs.

(From Greenhouses, Lighthouses. Copyright © 2013 by Tung-Hui Hu. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Copper Canyon Press)

Tung-Hui Hu is the author of three books of poetry, The Book of Motion, Mine, and, most recently, Greenhouses, Lighthouses (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), as well as a critical study of digital media, Cloud: A Pre-History (MIT Press, 2015). He has received awards and fellowships from the San Francisco Foundation, the University of Mississippi, the Michigan Society of Fellows, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, and has served as a faculty member at the Kundiman retreat for Asian American poets. Hu teaches poetry and digital studies at the University of Michigan, where he is an assistant professor of English.

Photo by Elizabeth Bruch

See "Art Talk with Tung-Hui Hu"

Author's Statement

Once while looking for coffee in Berlin I stumbled into a multistory coffeehouse that didn't mind if its patrons stayed there all day. Growing increasingly nervous that I wasn't spending money, I watched while people read and napped on its bright orange couches, chatted to other regulars, disappeared for half a day to run errands, and then returned to their seats. This, I finally realized, is what a public space looks like. I tell this story because it's also how I imagine the NEA program: open-ended, without explicit obligations to others, and therefore a kind of public act. As for what I'll do during my fellowship year, I'm working on a book of poems that delves into historical footnotes, such as a bell that was flogged and exiled to Siberia for ringing too loudly, or an aphrodisiac used by the Mataram sultanate in Java. This grant will let me see these objects and places for myself; for that, for the open-ended time, and for all the poets and poems that the NEA is supporting through its literature fellowships, I'm deeply thankful.