Where Big Books Are Born: Duy Doan on the Kundiman Retreat

Duy Doan
From the March/April 2018 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

I would never be able to overemphasize the positive impact that the Kundiman retreats have had on me—writing, musing, connecting with other Asian–Pacific Islander American writers, being taken in by a richly talented and generous community. At my third and final retreat, in 2015, I wrote two key poems, the last pieces to be included in my manuscript: One came out of a writing exercise in a seminar given by faculty poet Lee Herrick; the other occurred to me at the very end of the retreat, during farewells. Those two moments of finality (the poems completed the formal and thematic range I wanted my manuscript to have) were chance occasions made possible by the retreat’s innovative structure and intense engagement, as well as by the spontaneity and brilliance of the staff and faculty. In another seminar, faculty poet Jaswinder Bolina gave me advice on how to order my manuscript. I spent the rest of 2015 and most of 2016 revising poems—writing zero new poems—and working out the order and shape of the manuscript. Being in the presence of Kundiman’s community was one crucial igniting factor that propelled me into the final stretch. I can’t thank them enough.

Kundiman Retreat: Five-day conference and workshop in June for Asian American poets and fiction writers at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. Fellows are provided with lodging and meals. Tuition fee: $375. Next deadline: January 15. Kundiman Asian American Workshop Retreat, 113 West 60th Street, Room 924, Fordham University English Department, New York, NY 10023. www.kundiman.org

(Credit: Margarita Corporan)

Three Points of Productivity:
1. Safe, queer-friendly space cultivated by staff and other fellows.
2. Thoughtful, effective writing prompts.
3. Intense, packed scheduling balanced with social time.


Duy Doan is the author of We Play a Game, winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets and published by Yale University Press in March.