This week was the third anniversary of recovering from my first wave COVID infection and the 18 month anniversary of my mother’s death.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that nothing is guaranteed and every day we have is its own miracle.
I wanted to write a poem about all of this, and then I remembered that Mary Oliver already did. Please do yourself a tremendous favor and read “The Summer Day” here. The final lines destroy and revive me every time:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
After a hard day yesterday, I drew and watercolored the last words of the poem so I can read them every day. May they be as potent a reminder and affirmation to you as they are for me.
I’m thrilled to report that the fine folks at Inversion have posted clips from this summer’s performance of I Belong to You / Motherland, an epic poem about growing up in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s adapted to music. Please do check it out above!
I’m biased, of course, ’cause I wrote the libretto, but the I Belong to You / Motherland performance was one of the most shattering and restorative theatrical experiences I’ve ever seen or been a part of. Huge thanks to Inversion — and please do consider donating to their current fundraiser!
You can also buy signed copies of the gorgeous hardcover of I Belong to You / Motherland right now from the Greg Pak Shop!
I’m deeply grateful to Uncanny Magazine for inviting me to contribute to their current issue. I was supposed to write an essay, but I ended up writing a poem called “Book Club” about reading Dandelion Wine to my mom during her last weeks. Here are the opening lines:
Your mother is dying
What do you read to her?
During the pandemic, she started an online book club
For her school-aged grandchildren
Now they’re lounging in the cool, dark house
But she’s too tired to run the meeting
That’s become your job
Pick a book
The poem is free to read at https://www.uncannymagazine.com/article/book-club/ — along with many other stories, poems, and essays from this issue of the magazine. I’ve just realized it’s my first new poetry published in someone else’s publication since high school. Whew. I hope you’ll check it out.
Big news, friends. I’m thrilled to report that I BELONG TO YOU / MOTHERLAND, an autobiographical epic poem written by yours truly, has been adapted into a book and a choral musical performance that will be staged by the incredible artists from Inversion Ensemble and Invoke on Saturday, June 25 in Austin, Texas!
The story explores growing up as an Asian American kid in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s and grappling with the sense of not quite belonging while simultaneously feeling totally bound to the environment and flora and fauna of the state. The story’s also an elegy to my mother, Jane Pak, and how she taught me to observe and participate in the world. It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever written, and I’m enormously grateful to Inversion, Invoke, and to all of the contributing artists for their incredible support and partnership.
Tickets to the in-person performance can be bought through Eventbrite. Please mask up at the show and please do not attend if you’ve been exposed to COVID or have symptoms.
I’m also thrilled to report that the lush, 72 page book of I BELONG TO YOU / MOTHERLAND is available for mail order exclusively for the next month through the Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy website! Just fill out the form at this page! I’ll also be doing a signing at Dragon’s Lair on June 25 from 12-2 pm – hope to see you there!
The book is filled with my mother’s luminous black and white photography, my own photos and drawings from the past five decades, and illustrations by a crew of incredible artists, including Sean Chen, Dustinn Craig, Shing Yin Khor, Ann Smith, and Ethan Young. Please read on for a big preview of the first three chapters!
I’m thrilled to announce I BELONG TO YOU/MOTHERLAND, a new, deeply personal project created in collaboration with the Inversion Ensemble music group of Austin, Texas, and a crew of incredible artists, including Sean Chen, Dustinn Craig, Shing Yin Khor, Ann Smith, and Ethan Young.
Tonight at 8 pm ET, I’ll be discussing the project with artist Ann Smith in a virtual panel accessible to anyone who donates $50 or more to Inversion! Make your donation before 5 pm at https://www.inversionatx.org/donate and they’ll hook you up with the link to the event tonight!
I BELONG TO YOU/MOTHERLAND is an autobiographical epic poem that’s simultaneously being adapted into an illustrated book and a choral piece that will be performed by Inversion on June 25 in Austin.
The story explores growing up as an Asian American kid in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s and grappling with the sense of not quite belonging while simultaneously feeling totally bound to the environment and flora and fauna of the state. The story’s also about my mother, Jane Pak, and how she taught me to observe and participate in the world.
Hope to see you at the virtual event tonight, and if you’re in Austin, I’d be honored if you’d consider coming to the performance on June 25 — please see below for more details about that.
And yes, the illustrated book, which will include brilliant work by the artists mentioned above along with my mother’s luminous black and white photography and other ephemera from the 1970s and 1980s, will eventually be available for purchase — more details on that soon!
INVERSION ENSEMBLE presents I BELONG TO YOU
June 25, 2022, at 7:30 pm — Bates Recital Hall
2406 Robert Dedman Dr, Austin, TX 78712
Inversion presents “I Belong to You,” a spectacular multimedia experience featuring the world premiere of Motherland/I Belong to You, an unprecedented oratorio blending poetry, comic book illustration, and choral music. The autobiographical libretto by critically acclaimed comic book author Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk, Star Wars) explores the history, culture, and natural wonders of Texas from the perspective of a native Texan during the various stages of his life.
The musical adaptation of Pak’s text by Inversion’s three founding members—composers Adrienne Inglis, Robbie LaBanca, and Trevor F. Shaw—will be sung by Inversion’s flagship choral ensemble and accompanied by guest artists Invoke string quartet and Ethan Shaw (Chili Cold Blood), steel guitarist.
I Belong to You / Motherland will also be published as an original comic book by Greg Pak, commissioned by Inversion, with illustrations by renowned artists Ann Smith, Dustinn Craig, Ethan Young, Sean Chen, and Shing Yin Khor. Audience members will enjoy live, on-screen projections of the original artwork during the performance. V.I.P. tickets include a hardback, limited-edition version of the comic book, signed by the author.
Join Inversion Ensemble and Greg Pak on Saturday, June 25, 7:30 pm in Bates Recital Hall at the UT Butler School of Music for “I Belong to You,” sponsored in part by Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy.
thank you so much for your patience
pretty bad month
fell behind on correspondence
rough couple of weeks
little behind on everything
tough few days
hugely appreciate the kind words
worst fucking year of my life
appreciate you so much
slowly getting back onto this kind of work over here
finally getting back in the swing of things
finally back at it
at long, long last
please find attached
so sorry for dropping out there for a bit
huge apologies for the radio silence
still running a little slow over here
absolutely understand if
I’m so sorry to hear
please accept our deepest
best wishes and
big hearts and
all the best and
stay safe and
thanks so much and
please best hearts safe thanks
please hearts thanks
can you stop being clever
stop making connections
cut out every simile and metaphor
no more rhyming
no more rhythm
just let it fall from your mouth
heedless, formless, and true
like rain from the–