Announcing the 2023 Writing Fellows
June 1, 2023
We are thrilled to announce the 2023 Writing Fellows: Yee Heng Yeh, Cory Howell Hamada, and CJ Green. Established in 2014, the Writing Fellowships at A Public Space support three writers annually who are at the start of their careers. We think of the fellowships as a series of conversations, about writing and editing, reading and influences—starting with the authors who have been meaningful to the Fellows' work.
Yee Heng Yeh is a writer and translator from Malaysia. His work has been featured on the podcast KITA!, and published in adda, Guernica, and Strange Horizons. His translations have appeared in Mantis and Nashville Review. He is the poetry editor for NutMag, a zine based in Penang.
"In daily speech, where we don’t stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like 'the ordinary world,' 'ordinary life,' 'the ordinary course of events'… But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone’s existence in this world."
—Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel Prize lecture
I’ve learned many things from reading Wisława Szymborska—her humor, insight, clarity of language, experimentation with perspectives, skepticism of established narratives. But what always blows me away is her insistence on the necessity of astonishment. Poetry really is a way to remind us that beauty is wherever we find it, and that nothing, but nothing, can be taken for granted. Reading this passage from her Nobel Prize lecture, I always feel in myself “an abiding conviction that the world deserves a) to keep existing, and b) better luck than it’s had thus far”—as she describes elsewhere.
Cory Howell Hamada has worked in Japan as a coordinator for international relations and as the lead writer for National Geographic’s Expedition: Earth podcast series, and his work has been published in National Geographic Learning. He lives in California.
"Even now, when I try to remember them, when I look back at the crab-like plan of Breendonk and read the words of the captions—Former Office, Printing Works, Huts, Jacques Ochs Hall, Solitary Confinement Cell, Mortuary, Relics Store, and Museum—the darkness does not lift but becomes yet heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on." —Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
Although Sebald wrote about Europe, the world of his novels feels very much like my experience of Japan and the United States; buildings, structures, and humans are constantly headed toward ruin, and we seem unable to comprehend what that means for our lives. The physical world provides no assistance—we attempt to rely on place and history for a sense of concrete or factual grounding, only to find our “facts” are as tenuous as our memory. Sebald reflects this in prose that forces the reader to question what we consider to be true. His style and ideas have made me reconsider how we interact with facts, history, and place.
CJ Green was an editor for several years at a theology journal and is now a fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in Image, Prairie Schooner, and the Rumpus. He lives outside Iowa City.
"The picture of my mother I was carrying in my pocket felt hot against my heart, as if she herself were sweating. It was an old photograph, worn around the edges, but it was the only one I had ever seen of her. I had found it in the kitchen safe, inside a clay pot filled with herbs: dried lemon balm, castilla blossoms, sprigs of rue. I had kept it with me ever since. It was all I had. My mother always hated having her picture taken. She said photographs were a tool of witchcraft. And that may have been so, because hers was riddled with pinpricks, and at the location of the heart there was a hole you could stick your middle finger through." —Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden
I love the way this paragraph’s subject evolves deftly, line-by-line, from a sentimental object (“the picture of my mother”) to an ominous, porous object (“riddled with pinpricks...a hole you could stick your middle finger through”). I am particularly interested in the way that religion and family history can be alternately comforting and unnerving. Cerebral, visceral, and heartfelt all at once, Juan Rulfo's Pedro Páramo represents the kind of writing that I aspire to.
To learn more about the Writing Fellowship at A Public Space, visit our Fellowships page.
"Once I thought that one could only write about things one adequately understood. But I do not wish to submit myself entirely to this assumption, as it becomes a definite way to silence myself. Why not give myself permission, instead?"
December 22, 2023 by Ruby Wang