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'Because We Come From Everything' Explores Migration Through Postcards and Poetry

Kundiman is inviting readers to share their own postcards using the hashtags #WeComeFromEverything and #PoetryCoalition.
Sarah Gambito addressed her poem to fellow poet Heather Nagami.
Sarah Gambito addressed her poem to fellow poet Heather Nagami.

Members of the Asian-American literary organization Kundiman have spent the last decade's National Poetry Months sending verses to each other in the mail.

But this year, Kundiman members have decided to do something a little bit different, joining with other members of the newly-formed Poetry Coalition to focus their postcards on the theme of migration through the month of March. The cards are part of the coalition's Because We Come From Everything: Poetry and Migration project, which will share art focusing on migration throughout 2017.

Cathy Linh Che's poems center on the migration of the character Glenn Rhee from 'The Walking Dead.'

"Especially in our political times, it feels so important against this backdrop to fill up these literal mailboxes with these creative messages imagining new worlds," Kundiman executive director Cathy Linh Che told NBC News. "By filling up mailboxes with these poems, it's a genuine way to get out of the very dehumanizing places the news has been taking us."

Kundiman is also inviting readers to participate in the project by writing their own migration-themed poems and sharing an image of their postcards on social media using the hashtags #WeComeFromEverything and #PoetryCoalition before mailing them off. Organizers are also sharing the images on Kundiman's Facebook and Tumblr pages.

"A word a day — a sentence a day — anything each day that could fit on a postcard," project organizer and poet Soham Patel suggested in a message to participants. "My writing to you this month, for example, will be for and to honor Srinivas Kuchibhotla, Alok Madasani and family."

Since the postcard project began, Che said correspondents have interpreted the theme of “migration” in a wide range of ways. "People have not been sharing a single image of what migration means to them," she said. "For instance, the poet Sarah Gambito began hers with the line, 'You deserve your beautiful life.' She came up with it as she was thinking what message to send to her addressee [Kundiman fellow and poet] Heather Nagami."

Che decided to take a different approach when it came to her own postcards and poems. "I'm writing from the perspective of [the actor] Steven Yeun, who played Glenn Rhee on 'The Walking Dead,'" she explained.

"The Walking Dead" is a show about a zombie apocalypse and tells a different kind of migration story. The characters move from place to place in order to survive annihilation.

Sarah Gambito addressed her poem to fellow poet Heather Nagami.

"It's a different kind of migration, they are moving from place to place on that show," Che said. "I don't talk about the Vietnam War, which is what lead my parents to come to this country. However, the show parallels what it must be like for my parents to be moved from place to place while the world as they knew it was being destroyed."

As reflected in her own family's story, Che noted that the theme of migration is a particularly close one to most of Kundiman's members, as most are the children or grandchildren of immigrants.

"Some people are writing poems about anger and how to survive migration. It's a challenge because many people are feeling angry or disempowered or feeling like all we can do is react to policy," Che said. "But instead of being a place of reaction, this project is a space of action and creation."

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