The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Photograph of Cathy Lin Che credit Jess X. Snow
Photograph by Jess X. Snow

Cathy Linh Che

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Faculty 2020

About Cathy Linh Che

Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James Books), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. She has received awards from Poets & Writers, The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, and Artist Trust, among other places. She has taught at the New York University, Fordham University, and Sierra Nevada College, and she serves as executive director at Kundiman.

Find Conference Sessions with Cathy Linh Che

The Intersection of the Personal and the Political in Poetry
Cathy Linh Che

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Poetry, Social Justice

How do we make our poetry personal? How do we make it political? What techniques can we use to make our poetry bridge the gap between these modes? In this session, participants will explore the intersection between the two, examining how poetry can bear witness to history, document our time, and imagine new futures. We will explore how to use mythology and the speculative, the recurring image, the collective voice, and the intersection between image and text to make our poems both intimate and politically powerful.

So, You Wrote Your First Book. Now What?
Ivelisse Rodriguez, Vanessa Hua, Andrea Avery, Cathy Linh Che, Justin Petropoulos

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Business of Writing, Publishing

You’ve written your first manuscript. Read it. Read it a hundred more times. Probably reread it until your eyes ache and the words blur on the page. You know every page by heart. Now what? Join authors Ivelisse Rodriguez, Vanessa Hua, and Andrea Avery as they talk about what to do with your first book, what to expect in looking for a publisher, and how to get started on your second manuscript.

The Transformational Image: A Poetry Workshop
Cathy Linh Che

Thursday, February 20, 2020, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Advanced Workshop, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre: Poetry

What does an image do? How do images move or surprise us? In this writing workshop, we will examine how images shift, transform, and ultimately, move a reader. We will take our “go-to” images and explode them, looking at etymology, mythology, context and association. Finally, through writing prompts & workshop, we will read, write, and workshop poems that use recurring imagery to create tension and surprise.

More About Cathy Linh Che

---. "I walked through the trees, mourning. 2017.

I looked brightness in the eye.
The iron, the tang of metal & rust.

I held a penny
on my tongue.

The taste shocked me,
its brown-gold sweet.

I roamed the field
angry & burned

asking bitter questions of a gun.

Dance is a body’s refusal
to die. But, oh, your gone hair.

The flame & orange flare.
Our forms, our least known selves — 

barrel, sugar, & stench.
Your pleas, looped in writing,

the stutter of a body’s
broken grammar.

Akbar, Kaveh. "“It’s a very American story.”
Cathy Linh Che
." Divedapper  

When I first started writing poems, I was always dissatisfied with poems and endings. I always felt the need to say everything in a single poem. “Here is my poem about my mother,” “Here is my poem about my father’s experience in the Vietnam war.” Somewhere along the way, I lost that compulsion. I think part of it was reading Jack Spicer, who does a lot of serial poems, and part of it was that I picked up this idea that poems are in conversation with one another and they can be fragmentary in nature. The cumulative effect of having them come together can create a larger narrative that is fuller, that echoes off itself. Split, altogether, is the sort of “big poem” I wanted to create.


Hammer Barbe, Stephanie. "Split By Cathy Linh Che." The Los Angeles Review, May, 2014.

Perhaps the writer’s most difficult task is to render the catastrophic linked non-stories that comprise transgenerational trauma. Cathy Linh Che’s collection SPLIT accomplishes this nearly impossible challenge with uncommon grace and power. Each poem unwinds the cataclysm of personal wounding by making itself irresistibly beautiful. The opening lines are seductive lures, to whose language we attach ourselves, only to be dragged upstream into a whirlpool of domestic deception and horror. Che’s work opens out to her mother’s tortuous needlework in Vietnam, to the death of her grandmother, and in a moment of absurdity to her father’s double role as refugee/actor.