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Winner of the 2018 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize
How can a search for self‑knowledge reveal art as a site of community? Yanyi’s arresting and straightforward poems weave experiences of immigration as a Chinese American, of racism, of mental wellness, and of gender from a queer and trans perspective. Between the contrast of high lyric and direct prose poems, Yanyi invites the reader to consider how to speak with multiple identities through trauma, transition, and ordinary life.
These poems constitute an artifact of a groundbreaking and original author whose work reflects a long journey self‑guided through tarot, therapy, and the arts. Foregrounding the power of friendship, Yanyi’s poems converse with friends as much as with artists both living and dead, from Agnes Martin to Maggie Nelson to Robin Coste Lewis. This instructive collection gives voice to the multifaceted humanity within all of us and inspires attention, clarity, and hope through art-making and community.
About the Author
Yanyi is a poet and critic who has received fellowships from the Asian American Writers' Workshop, Poets House, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. He formerly served as curatorial assistant at The Poetry Project and is associate editor at Foundry.
“Yanyi’s debut weaves together descriptions of experiences of immigration as a Chinese-American and of racism, mental wellness, and gender from a queer and trans perspective.”—Publishers Weekly
“Yanyi’s dexterity of self-discovery is open and honest, and his poems form a frame within which social norms can be realigned. . . . The interchange in this fine young poet’s work is rewarding each step of the way on a path worth taking.”—Raúl Niño, Booklist
Finalist of the 2020 Lamda Literary Awards, transgender poetry category
"It’s almost enough to praise the richness of this amazing book’s references to culture. The Year of Blue Water is powered by a breathtaking range of subjects and subjectivities, but the simultaneously relaxed and radical pitch of the diction here is also a marvel. Each poem is as unpredictable and intimate as a conversation with no boundaries to its thinking and feeling. This book is laboratory of experience and experiment. It’s a debut of singular invention."—Terrance Hayes
“The Year of Blue Water reads as a record of time, a kind of daybook of observations in sentences so crystalline, spare, direct, and yet offhand, that it can be easy to miss, at first, the book’s complexity.”—Carl Phillips
“These poems offer the difficult gifts of difference through a clear and moving language, as an aperture widening insight into how we belong (or not), how we know or un-know, are seen or self-erase, all choices at the heart of becoming, naming one self.”—Erica Hunt
“I love the rigorous self-intimacy that allows Yanyi such wisdoms as: “If there’s a thing I want to teach me, it’s how I live my light.” This book carries, and shares, that light.”—Ross Gay