by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
In her newest book, Peach State, Dickinson Poet-in-Residence and Professor of Creative Writing Adrienne Su bakes her passion for cooking into her love affair with language and serves it up with a dollop of regional identity. It’s a delectable literary buffet that’s recently been dubbed essential reading in Georgia, where Su grew up.
On Jan. 28, the Georgia Center for the Book named Peach State (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) to its list of “Books All Georgians Should Read.” The book also was highlighted by ARTS ATL in a recent Q&A with Su.
The “Books All Georgians Should Read” list is compiled annually by the Advisory Council of the Georgia Center for the Book, based on recommendations by publishers, librarians, academics and readers across Georgia. It honors achievements of individual authors and amplifies the state’s rich literary heritage. Twenty books are named to the 2022 list, and the Georgia Center for the Book will highlight individual works throughout the year.
Fittingly, Su will be one of two highlighted authors in April, the month designated as National Poetry Month in the U.S.
Peach State reimagines the Chinese and Chinese American dishes of Su’s formative years and beyond and shines a light on the ways the city has evolved over time, viewed through the lens of the Southern immigrant experience. Through it, we visit evocative spaces—home kitchens, neighbors’ dining rooms, restaurants and markets—and we celebrate the ways that shared meals express and deepen community, friendship and family ties, particularly within the Chinese and Chinese American communities. The book also explores the intricacies of complex identities—a concept Su discussed in her recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed, “North & South on my Mind.”
The Georgia Center for the Book honor is only the latest accolade for Su, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship awardee whose poems appear in many anthologies, including five volumes of Best American Poetry. She is also the author of four additional poetry collections.
As with Su’s earlier works, the poems in Peach State deploy simple language and elevate everyday experiences to convey complex ideas and emotions. In an interview for Dickinson’s podcast, The Good, Su described her process and the joy she finds in that space where her love of food and cooking and her love of verse are joined.
“I’ve long been interested in food and cooking, as well as poetry, but for most of the time, those were separate interests,” Su explains. “Over time, as I found food working its way into the poems and the poems relied more and more on received forms, I think I wrote more free verse in the beginning. And now have really found my stride with poetic form.”
Published February 9, 2022