Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut, Kaya’s latest poet, launched her debut collection Magnetic Refrain at The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles on February 9th. The cavernous bookstore–named one of the 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World–had a robust Saturday afternoon crowd of friends and poetry lovers. Nicky shared the stage with poet Lee Herrick, author of Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire (Word Tech Editions), who travelled from Fresno for the event.
Both Nicky and Lee address their Korean adoptee identity in their poetry, and much more. Chiwan Choi of Writ Large Press introduced Lee by pointing out how Lee’s work make him hungry for their many mentions of food. Along with poems about travel, healing, love, and the journey of an adopted person looking for his family, Lee read a sonnet for pho. Lee also talked about how important it was for him to share creative space with another Korean adoptee.
Viet Nguyen, USC professor and Kaya Board Member, introduced Nicky, who was his former student. Viet described Nicky’s collection as one containing “haunted fairy tales.” He went on to describe that history functions in Nicky’s work as “a haunted forrest that the narrators are wandering through.” He concluded by saying that Nicky’s work goes beyond the specific experience of a Korean adoptee who is othered from her family and surroundings. “She magnifies that sense of otherness into what we all experience,” he said.
Nicky will be making upcoming appearances at the San Gabriel Literary Festival, the upcoming AWP conference in Boston in March, and and at the Asian American Studies conference in Seattle this April.