We are ecstatic to announce that Kaya Press poet Koon Woon has been awarded a 35th annual American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for his collection Water Chasing Water.
The American Book Award aims to recognize a set of books and people for outstanding literary achievement with a focus on multiculturalism and free expression. The 35th annual Awards Ceremony will be held on Sunday October 26th at the SF Jazz Center in San Francisco. Writers Alex Espinoza and Jamaica Kincaid, and Michael Parenti and others will also be receiving awards. Previously, Kaya Press poetry book The Unbearable Heart by Kimiko Hanh won an American Book Award in 1996.
Described by Bob Holman as “Li Po in drag, the voice of New America,” Woon exploded onto the poetry scene in the late 1990s. Struggling with schizophrenia and homelessness, Seattle-based Woon wrote about the back alleys and tenement rooms on the margins of immigrant culture in his first collection, The Truth in Rented Rooms (included in this volume), which won a PEN poetry prize and earned praise from Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Garrison Keillor.
In Water Chasing Water, Woon continues his exploration of loneliness and memory with poems and essays that seek out “This light / Without which existence is not detectable.”
Crediting poetry for keeping him afloat and helping him through his mental illness, Woon says, “For me poetry was an attempt to regain my sanity.” Now active in Seattle’s literary community, Woon judges contests, sponsors poetry readings and workshops, and is the publisher of Goldfish Press.