"the spirit of the staircase" by Tiana Nobile
When I visited the Asian American Workshop Center's table at AAWP Tampa 2018, I was greeted by a bubbly young Korean-American woman who entertained all my weird questions. I introduced myself to her and asked if she had a book for sale here and she lit up and presented me "the spirit of the staircase" as shown above which upon first blush, appeared to me like a graphic novel when I started flipping through it.
But what caught my attention (as I'm sure it did for many people) was the brazen index of poems:
I. Is it true Asian pussies are sideways?
II. Go back to China!
III. I used to work in Korea. Ya'll make really great cars.
IV. I used to watch Thai porn with my Taiwanese ex-girlfriend. Then we'd fuck.
V. Where are you really from?
VI. I've never had an Asian before.
VII. What are you?
These titles coupled with Brigid Conroy's paintings, which are light and whimsical, takes the edge off the political stance those titles evoke.
But upon deeper inspection of Nobile's poems, she seems to respond to those ridiculous questions and statements that culturally insensitive people, particularly men, have posed at some point to the "otherness" of the Asian diaspora.
They imply the notion of fetishism of the exotic, the notion that there is the ultimate sexual wherewithal and images of the uninhibited Asian women.
Tiana Nobile has addressed the misnomers and stereotypes that have plagued Asian and Asian American women for so long and is still being astoundingly perpetuated.
Interspersed between these profound poems are poems that reflect the feeling of being invisible when she wrote:
"I'm a ghost in a raincoat, faint blur
against pavement in another
country my mother is watching
t.v. in silk pajamas the color
of flowers. She rubs lotion into
her callused toes and listens
closely while grinding her teeth."
Nobile and Conroy both hail from New Orleans. Nobile is a Kundiman fellow who both collaborated to create an exquisitely profound collection. An embodiment of poignant responses to classic stereotypes. A must read. I'm glad I met her and had a chance to discover her work.
You can order her book here: https://www.tiananobile.com/the-spirit-of-the-staircase/
You can learn more about her chapbook and her artistic statement here: http://www.wwcmfa.org/interview-with-tiana-nobile/