In 2022, less than 50% of adults read a book in the USA, Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.
“There are people who are still fighting for poetry, writing and literature. I think that is to be applauded and I hope to see more young people fighting for the literary arts,” Evan Wang, Poet and Editor-in-Chief of Hominum Journal.
Words are more than mere sounds. As they travel through the wind, they bloom inside of us becoming thoughts and feelings. Words can turn into stories with the ability to change us and the way we see the world. Just like the Argentine writer and journalist Tomás Eloy Martínez said: “We are, therefore, the books we have read. Or we are, on the contrary, the emptiness that the absence of books has opened in our lives.”
Unfortunately, the habit of reading has declined by 8% in the last 10 years in the United States (from 2012 to 2022) according to the Arts Participation Patterns in 2022: Highlights from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. In fact, the survey indicates that only 48.5% of adults in the USA read a book during the 12 months of 2022, either in print or electronically. More than half of the population has not read even one book in 12 months.
From 2012 to 2017, there was an increase of poetry reading, going from 6.7% of the population to 11.7%. But from 2017 to 2022 the amount of people who read poetry had a drastic decline of -22% and only 9.4% of the population read that genre, while plays had a decline of -34% and novels and short stories a decline of -10% of readers, according to the survey. This situation inspired Evan Wang to work on a platform that allows the new voices of literature to be known.
“Much of my work as a writer and a poet is to amplify young voices and to encourage literacy and engagement in the literary arts because nowadays there is such a decline in the interest in creative writing and even reading books,” says Evan. “People rather lean into aesthetics rather than actually consuming stories.”
A Talented Writer
Evan Wang is a writer, performer, reviewer, and the first Youth Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, RHINO Poetry, Rust + Moth, COUNTERCLOCK Journal, and more, and nominated for Best of the Net. He is the 2023 Jacklyn Potter Young Poet, an alumnus of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, an Anaphora Fellow, winner of the 2023 Poetry Society of Virginia’s Jenkins Prize and the 2023 Apprentice Writer Award in Poetry, selected by Karla Kelsey.
He has performed his work at various venues such as the Oval XP, Love Park, ArtWRKD, the and The Rotunda at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a featured artist at the Our America Now: Expressions of Freedom event and the Our America Now: World Refugee Day event as part of the Wawa Welcome America festival, the largest Fourth of July celebration in the country. His work has been featured at and recognized by Button Poetry, NPR, NBC10, Philadelphia Contemporary, the Montgomery County Community College, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Pulitzer Center, and more. Evan is only 17 years old.
“I always loved writing,” recalls Evan. “Back in first grade, I remember there was this kid in my classroom, we had to sweep the floor and he accidentally hurt his head with the broom and I wrote a really short story about it and my teacher loved it. I think that was my first attempt at writing a story. It just came natural to me.”
The Power of a Poem
Evan is a first generation American, he has an Asian background and in 2021 the increasing Asian discrimination and hate crimes provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted him.
“I decided to take a walk through the park behind my house before my next Zoom class. There was a playground right next to a creek, and on that particular day, there was a group of kids —middle school to late elementary in age— climbing up and down the slide,” remembers Evan. “The moment I walked past, one of the boys jeered at me. ‘Hey Chink,’ he said. I was taken aback, and quite frankly, I didn’t even know what the word meant. I knew that it felt wrong like a cold, blunt edge of a knife was dragging itself across my knuckles. Some of his friends snickered while looking at me, while the others humorously asked: ‘Wait, what did you say?’ I quickened my pace and left the park, feeling confused.”
It was the mixture of feelings he experienced during that incident what empowered him to write a 6-minute-long poem titled “The Blood We Inherit, The Blood We Spill.” At that time, his school district was organizing a cultural event with three different clubs across Middle School and High School centered on educating people about microaggressions.
“After I told one of the organizers that I had a poem, I was invited to a meeting and asked to have my poem become the face of the event,” says Evan. “And so the event was named after my poem: ‘The Blood We Inherit, The Blood We Spill: The Asian American Experience.’ The event welcomed over 100 attendees and led to an incredibly emotionally-charged evening. My poem was broadcasted across the school district for two weeks straight, making me a local celebrity. Teachers recognized my name and my face despite never meeting me, and I was shown the power of language and honesty through that experience.”
Uplifting Young Writers
When Evan wrote his famous poem, he used to read a literary magazine called Hominum Journal which was a platform for young writers. He wanted to have some of his work published in one of its issues, unfortunately the magazine was no longer active but Evan would soon find a way to pursue his dream and go even further.
“Hominum Journal is really close to my heart. It has an important mission which is to emphasize the humanness of people and the language that is within us all,” says Evan. “So I reached out to the former Editor-in-Chief and he agreed to let me take over the magazine. To revive the journal required a lot of work and a lot of funds but I got to recruit an amazing team of poetry editors, art directors and blog contributors.”
In order to gather a new team for Hominum Journal, Evan launched an invitation to former writers and readers of the online magazine. That led to the selection of 15 people who are working on the magazine right now: 5 poetry editors, 5 post editors, 2 blog contributors, 1 art director and more.
“We are working towards our first issue back, and I hope that after this first issue we can continue to grow, launch a contest and get back into the function of Huminum Journal,” says Evan. “Many of our contributors have become amazing writers, they have published their own books and have been recognized by incredible organizations. We want to continue introducing new voices to the literary world because it is imperative that we provide more opportunities to people.”
In order to have Hominum Journal back on track Evan needed to obtain the resources required to pay for the hosting and managing of the magazine’s site, so he started to look online for grants.
“When I found The Pollination Project, I looked at the projects you have founded and they were so inspiring,” remembers Evan. “To get the email with the confirmation that we had received the grant was just absolutely wonderful. It’s because of organizations like The Pollination Project that creative arts and literacy can be furthered and supported.”
Hominum Journal will have 4 issues a year and so far they have accepted 11 entries for their relaunching. They will include pieces of fiction, non-fiction, art, poetry and plays. And Evan hopes that his work may one day inspire others, just like the Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong has inspired him.
“Before reading Vuong, I was almost afraid to be vulnerable in my work, I was afraid to say too much, let people know too much. But, after reading him, I realized poetry could be: honest, raw and real. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, it doesn’t need to be obscure. It can just be fully you,” says Evan. “I hope that someday, in the future, some kid looks at my work and thinks: “That is a poet I’m inspired by.’ And he is urged to create himself.”
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