The Operating System

5th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 5 :: Ching-In Chen on Margaret Rhee

[box]It’s hard to believe that this is our FIFTH annual 30/30/30 series, and that when this month is over we will have seeded and scattered ONE HUNDRED and FIFTY of these love-letters, these stories of gratitude and memory, into the world. Nearly 30 books, 3 magazines, countless events and online entries later, and this annual celebration shines like a beacon at the top of the heap of my very favorite things to have brought into being. [If you’re interested in going back through the earlier 120 entries, you can find them (in reverse chronological order) here.]
When I began this exercise on my own blog, in 2011, I began by speaking to National Poetry Month’s beginnings, in 1966, and wrote that my intentions “for my part, as a humble servant and practitioner of this lovely, loving art,” were to post a poem and/or brief history of a different poet…. as well as write and post a new poem a day. I do function well under stricture, but I soon realized this was an overwhelming errand.
Nonetheless the idea stuck — to have this month serve not only as one in which we flex our practical muscles but also one in which we reflect on inspiration, community, and tradition — and with The Operating System (then Exit Strata) available as a public platform to me, I invited others (and invited others to invite others) to join in the exercise. It is a series which perfectly models my intention to have the OS serve as an engine of open source education, of peer to peer value and knowledge circulation.
Sitting down at my computer so many years ago I would have never imagined that in the following five years I would be able to curate and gather 150 essays from so many gifted poets — ranging from students to award winning stars of the craft, from the US and abroad — to join in this effort. But I’m so so glad that this has come to be.
Enjoy! And share widely.
– Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, Managing Editor/Series Curator [/box]


[line][script_teaser]“Margaret writes love poems to robots – she makes a kind of humming beauty, a possibility for a strange  love between different kinds of bodies which were never meant to be together, a kind of rebel love, a love which celebrates what might be around the corner.” [/script_teaser]
A gray day in a cold city. Who will meet you on the concrete, tug your arm and invite you in for a cup of tea?  Margaret Rhee whispers in my ear – she says, a story involving electricity and a dream machine. I tell her instead I have to slog through slush to give a reading in five minutes, but the reading is a fifteen-minute walk away. Never mind, Margaret is a poet of cyborg invention – she grabs my arm, pulls me forward with electric power and nectarine energy to a packed room and cheers me on when I take the stage.
What do I know about Margaret?  I met her during Kundiman, a retreat for Asian American poets, a place we came to listen, make, dream – to each other and to ourselves, putting our ears to our pages, to the sky. We asked each other questions and the ceiling did not move. We read each other poems and the sky did not shake. We cried and remembered each other over wires, when we lived in cities far away and the street did not intersect.
Margaret writes love poems to robots – she makes a kind of humming beauty, a possibility for a strange  love between different kinds of bodies which were never meant to be together, a kind of rebel love, a love which celebrates what might be around the corner.
Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 1.49.04 PM
(Excerpted from “Beam, Robot,” full text at Hyphen Magazine)[/box][line]
And what is down the street is each other, in all our many bodies and voices.
Much of what I love about Margaret’s work is the space she opens for others to poetry, whether her work in participatory digital storytelling workshops in the San Francisco Jail or her invention of the Kimchi Poetry Machine, which holds small paper pieces of poetry instead of kimchi.
Margaret writes, “And when the jar is opened, instead of the pungent smells of fermented cabbage filling your nostrils, your eardrums are lulled by the luminous readings of poetry written by a variety of invited feminist poets. The machine is powered by open-source electronic prototyping platforms such as Arduino and Adafruit and reimagines how poetry can be written, listened to, and interacted with in the near future.”
In the near future, I want to sip nectarine juice, write invented words on red slips of paper for good luck, listen to gifts of poems from the kimchi poetry machine, gamble for love.

[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image] Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books) and recombinant (forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press) and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities. A Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. They have also been awarded fellowships from Can Serrat, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Norman Mailer Center and Imagining America. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing, The &NOW Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. They are a senior editor of The Conversant. (Photo: Sarah Grant)
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