What Poets Conjured for MATCHA: Phantoms Arise!

Farnooshi Fathi reading in Phantoms of Asia

Farnoosh Fathi reads her poem to the Matcha audience.

As a recent addition to the education department at the museum, I was excited about planning public programs for Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past, as well as cultivating new collaborations. For our latest Matcha event I considered how the museum could tap creative communities in the Bay Area in order to help demystify contemporary art and illuminate ideas and connections between artworks, but also open up the museum as a platform to present new works.

I was curious about the role poets and writers play in the exploration of themes and ideas around different cosmologies, the after-life, myth and ritual, and sacred spaces. For MATCHA: Phantoms Arise! I was lucky enough to collaborate with Litquake, the organization best known for organizing San Francisco’s Literary Festival.

I worked closely with Robin Ekiss, Poetry Curator and coordinator of Litquake’s Lit Crawl SF, a “bar crawl with literature—where hundreds of literati get drunk on words!” Robin and I assembled a list of artworks and a roster of poets to invite. We wanted to stay true to the spirit of Lit Crawl, but instead of jumping from bar to bar, participants would gallery hop around the museum. We commissioned new work from seven Bay Area poets: Justin Chin, Paul Hoover, Arisa White, Farnoosh Fathi, Kevin Simmonds, Mari L’Esperance, and Truong Tran. Robin and I assigned each poet an artwork from the exhibition, but we didn’t provide any information about the artwork or artist. We wanted to privilege each poet’s experience with the piece, allowing the art itself  to serve as the initial spark of inspiration. Here is Paul Hoover reading his poem “Krishna Takes a Picture”:

You can explore more poetry from the evening on YouTube.

Please join us for MATCHA: Shamanism featuring artist Dohee Lee on Thursday, August 23.