"Because We Come From Everything": Poets share their immigration stories

  1. Usama Halak, a Syrian refugee, came to the U.S. via Egypt after his house in Aleppo was destroyed by a bomb. Halak said he realized how much he loved reading when he was imprisoned in Syria, and books were not allowed inside the jail. After he got out, he studied Arabic literature. Now, he also writes in English. He considers the book "my heart."
  2. Meta Sarmiento, a Filipino-American poet born and raised Guam, an unincorporated territory of the U.S., said the project challenged him to ask himself: "Where are you now and why are you here?" He wrote this postcard.
  3. Many Ya Too -- whose family was displaced from Myanmar and now lives in Akron, Ohio -- wrote this poem about carrying on his family’s dream.
  4. Tamiko Beyer, a poet raised in Tokyo who now lives in Boston, wrote this postcard to writer Ploi Pirapokin, who was born in Thailand, raised in Hong Kong and now lives in San Francisco:
  5. Linda Zhao came to the U.S. from China at age 18. Zhao's poem is about the grandmother -- whom she describes as "tiny" but "strong -- she had to leave behind to come to the U.S.
  6. Hyejung Kook, a poet who was born in Seoul, Korea, grew up in Pennsylvania and now lives in Prairie Village, Kansas, said the project pushed her to "think more deeply about my experience as an immigrant as well as the idea of migration in the larger world." She wrote this postcard.
  7. Luwela Esube fled the Congo for Tanzania and then came to the U.S. as a refugee. He wrote this poem about his grandfather, who used to tell him stories as a child, and whom he remembers as "kind to everybody... and anyone with problems used to come meet him for advice."
  8. See more postcards, videos and other poetry around migration here.
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