Join The Seattle Public Library on Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for an event featuring poet, science writer, and retired professional cage fighter Jenny Liou, who will be in conversation with Seattle poet and KUOW public radio host Shin Yu Pai. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Central Library (Level 1 Microsoft Auditorium) with an option to view the livestream online. You can register at this EventBrite link.

At the event, Liou will discuss her debut collection of poetry ”Muscle Memory,” in which the Washington-based poet grapples with violence and identity, beginning with the chain-link enclosure of the prizefighter’s cage and radiating outward into the diasporic sweep of Chinese American history.

Presented in partnership with Open Books, this is the final event in the Library’s fall Public Engagement series guest-curated by Pai, which also featured poet Pamela Sneed (Oct. 14) and Oglala Lakota Chef Sean Sherman (Nov. 4). Events in the series are supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation and the Gary and Connie Kunis Foundation.



In “Muscle Memory,” Jenny Liou, a professor of English at Pierce College, writes with spare, stunning lyricism about how cage fighting offered relief from the trauma inflicted by diaspora’s vanishing ghosts; how, in the cage, an elbow splits an eyebrow, or an armbar snaps a limb, and even when you lose a fight, you’ve won something else: pain. Liou places the physical manifestation of violence in her sport alongside the deeper traumas of immigration and her own complicated search for identity, exploring what she inherited from her Chinese immigrant father — who was also obsessed with poetry and martial arts.

When she finally steps away from the cage to raise children of her own, Liou begins to question how violence and history pass from one generation to the next, and whether healing is possible without forgetting.



Shin Yu Pai, former program director for Town Hall Seattle, established the Atlas Obscura Society in Seattle and produced and curated programs for Atlas Obscura in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Denver for five years. She is the author of 11 books of poetry and a 2022 Artist Trust Fellow. She is also the host and creator of “The Blue Suit,” a podcast on Asian American stories produced by KUOW Public Radio, Seattle’s NPR affiliate.



The Library frequently works with guest curators to develop community-responsive programming. See our guest curator page for more information.

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