John Yau is a poet, fiction writer, art critic, publisher of Black Square Editions, and freelance curator. He is known for his attentiveness to visual culture and linguistic surface in his work. In poems that frequently pun, trope, and play with the English language, Yau offers complicated, sometimes competing versions of the legacy of his dual heritages—as Chinese, American, poet, and artist.
Yau's work frequently explores and exploits the boundaries between poetry and prose; his collections of stories and prose poetry include Hawaiian Cowboys (1994), My Symptoms (1998), and Forbidden Entries (1996). Yau's many collections of poetry include Corpse and Mirror (1983), Edificio Sayonara (1992), Forbidden Entries (1996), and Borrowed Love Poems (2002). After receiving his 2002 Grants to Artists award, Yau released Ing Grish (2005), Paradiso Diaspora (2006), Exhibits (2010), and Further Adventures in Monochrome (2012).
Yau is also an active art critic, writing works such as A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns (2008). His reviews have appeared in Artforum, Art in America, Art News, Bookforum, and the Los Angeles Times. He was the Arts Editor for the Brooklyn Rail from 2006 to 2011. In January 2012, he started the online magazine Hyperallergic Weekend with three other writers. In 2010, he helped organize Oil and Water for Stephen Harvey Fine Art Projects and in 2012 he organized Broken/Window/Plane for Tracy Williams in New York City. His collaborations with visual artists have been exhibited in The Museum of Modern Art, the Bonn Kunstmuseum in Germany, and the Queensland Art Gallery in South Brisbane, Australia.
Since receiving his 2002 FCPA grant, Yau was named a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow (2006) and was given a Creative Capital Literature grant (2006). Prior to his 2002 Grants to Artists award, Yau received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1977), Ingram Merrill Foundation Fellowships (1979-1980, 1985-1986), a General Electric Foundation Award (1987-1988), New York Foundation for the Arts Awards (1988, 1998), a Brendan Gill Award (1992), a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and a grant from the Peter S. Reed Foundation (2002). In 2002, Yau was named Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.
Yau received his B.A. from Bard College in 1972 and his M.F.A. in Poetry from Brooklyn College in 1977. He was a distinguished visiting critic at the Pratt Institute Graduate School of Art, Maryland Institute College of Art and School of Visual Arts in the late 1980s. In 1992, he was a visiting poet at Brown University, and in 1994 and 1995 was a visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley. He was also the Ahmanson Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He is on faculty at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
I am currently working on three projects, a new book of poems, a book about painting, and a book of essays. All three engage me, and none of them is thought to be more perfect a form than any of the others.