Based in Los Angeles, Huan He is the author of Sandman (2022), which won the 2021 Diode Editions Chapbook Contest. His poetry explores race, sexuality, and belonging from the perspective of a queer Chinese American raised by the prairies. His poems appear/are forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal (2021 Adrienne Rich Award Semifinalist), A Public Space, Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review (Poetry Contest Finalist), and elsewhere. Starting in Fall 2023, he will be an Assistant Professor of English at Vanderbilt University.
Author Portrait Courtesy of Daniel Huecias, Photographer
About the Book
Sandman peers into the slumbering worlds of desire and memory. The collection takes the Sandhills of Nebraska as a storied place for exploring queerness and Asian American experience, dispersed across environments “to see if the earth remembered too, / this time, or the next.” Giving form to “shapes out of air,” the lines reside in the multiple valences of a breath, finding resonances across migrant histories of labor and pleasure.
“The poems in Huan He’s Sandman are tender observations, evocative myths, and poetic pursuits that gently nudge readers to enter into an intimate dance with the world and ourselves. Through lyrical verve, astute intelligence, and evocative imagination, He’s poems are all at once dream songs and gentle lessons that subtly radiate poetics and politics from the mundane every day and prompts wonder. He’s poetry intervenes in the hum of the capitalistic world by offering a different kind of bestiary that draws from mythology, coming of age themes, and the Asian immigrant diaspora. Reminiscent of the poetic and political writing by Li Young Lee, D.A. Powell, and Maxine Hong Kingston, He’s Sandman marks the debut of a stunning new and important voice in contemporary poetry. He’s quietly daring and transformative poems teach us what we did not know we were hungry for, and these extraordinary poems make us see and feel anew.”
—Margaret Rhee, author of Love, Robot
“The dreamy world of Sandman is a sight to behold, lush with traitorous box thorns and water that can fix a father in time, or what He so aptly describes as ‘a bestiary/ of found things/ wounded.’ At the forefront of this fantasy-filled landscape is a queer boy whose escape into the world of the digital screen allows him to fully make sense of the historical violence committed against Asian Americans in the U.S. from the exploitation of Chinese American labor on the transcontinental railroad to the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. This debut collection reminds me of how poetry can transform the limitations of mainstream historical narratives of Asian American life. By drawing on an illustrious imagination that paints the wonder and slow horrors of this world with excruciating brightness, He offers another way for us to think about the particulars of Asian American experiences, that which are soft, full of tender kinship, and open.”
—Muriel Leung, author of Imagine Us, The Swarm