Winner of the 2018 A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize
Jan-Henry Gray was born in the Philippines, grew up in California, and worked as a chef in San Francisco for more than 12 years. He lived undocumented in the US for more than 32 years. A graduate of San Francisco State University and Columbia College Chicago’s MFA program, he received the inaugural Undocupoets Fellowship and awards from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Academy of American Poets. Jan's writing can be found in Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Fourteen Hills, The Margins, Quarterly West, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. He is the author of the chapbook Selected Emails from speCt! Books. His first book, Documents, was chosen by D.A. Powell as the winner of BOA Editions’ 2018 Poulin Poetry Prize. He is a Kundiman fellow and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. He lives in Brooklyn.
“‘The Philippines is ghost-country,’ writes Jan-Henry Gray, in this gorgeous debut collection, and indeed, Gray's speakers can be thought of as ghostly, muted and aching for connection, in the specifics of place, in language, in poetry. These are poems of thwarted belonging, and the emotional consequences of institutional and social invisibility.”
"The brilliance of Documents rests within its ability to remind us that poetry is everywhere…I am so thankful for this book and how important it is for the literary world, especially the growing canon of migrant literary activists!”
Barbara Jane Reyes
“His work makes visible the emotional and intellectual chaos of living as an undocumented queer man...His poems will help increase the visibility of those made invisible by our society...He transforms legal forms and interview questions into texts that reveal the dehumanizing power of language.
Eduardo C. Corral
Jet Fuel Review
Maid Poem #2
Love Poem with a Hole in It
Maid Poem #1: The Housemaid
Transfer Magazine #107
Our Father Made Movies for us to See
Transfer Magazine #106
a chapbook in unwitting collaboration with Chris Philpot
Review by Anni Liu
On Admission: A Review of Documents by Jan-Henry Gray
"There was a part of me that opened this book hoping to find some part of myself or own experiences in it—the frisson of recognition is so compelling. But the actual intimate presence of another consciousness is an even more urgent encounter and one that I rarely find outside the realm of art."
Poetry Today #5: Visibility and Poeisis Edited by Ruben Quesada.
Poetry Today is a series dedicated to learning about the characteristics of poets and poetry from writers who have published a collection of poetry, full-length or chapbook, within the year.
Review by Luisa A. Igloria
"With the breath of 10,000 horses, with hawkers of cassava cakes, with sleepers in siesta hours and hoarders of palm sugar, he knows the only true archive of our humanity is in the moments we press the ungovernable details of our existence more sharply against questions meant to erase or level them out."
Documents is listed as one of 26 New Poetry Collections By LGBTQIA+ Writers To Look Out For In 2019.
Interview with Jera Brown
"Three Poets of Color on How Their Books Came to Be"
With poets mai c. doan and Xandria Phillips.
Documents is included in Page One, as one of a dozen new and noteworthy books.
The short film Reverse Engineering is featured in Poets & Writers Theater.
Review by Laura Eve Engel
Meta- cognitive and openhearted, this book offers itself as a kind of instruction manual for how one might identify structures in writing and in the world that are designed to limit access, rather than grant it—as well as how one might resist and reinvent them."
Review by Jarrett Neal
Within “Documents,” the debut collection by local poet Jan-Henry Gray, the plight of the undocumented gains voice and agency, as poem after poem moves readers through the love, loss and labor of a population whose survival, sadly, relies on invisibility and impermanence."
“The only way to know a song is to sing it,’ Gray writes, an apt piece of wisdom for a coming-of-age story in poems that twists through states and decades, immigration processes, chorus-like poems exploring bodies of water and extended family drama.”
Who I’m Reading Right Now: Marianne Chan and Jan-Henry Gray
“You know, I first read Gray’s poem, “Acknowledgments” a few years ago…My response to the poem was more like multiple responses, starting with a simultaneous exhilaration and revulsion, which made me come back to the poem again and again. I was like, dang, this child is talking SHIT…"
Documents is listed as "3 Books I Can’t Wait For in 2019"
"Not only was his story compelling, but his writing was masterful. He could write these sharp sentences that even after I had forgotten the exact wording, I would remember the feel of them for days afterward."