Paul Tran


Paul Tran earned their B.A. in history from Brown University and M.F.A. in poetry from Washington University in St. Louis, where they won the Howard Nemerov Prize, Dorothy Negri Prize, and Norma Lowry Memorial Award. As the Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow (2017-19) and Senior Poetry Fellow (2019-20) in the Writing Program, and as Faculty in Poetry (2020-Present) in the Summer Writers Institute, Paul has taught the introductory, intermediate, and advanced poetry workshops at WashU. From 2013-18, Paul coached the poetry slam teams at Brown University, Barnard College & Columbia University, and Washington University in St. Louis. Paul was the first Asian American since 1993—and first transgender poet ever—to win the Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam, placing top 10 at the Individual World Poetry Slam and top 2 at the National Poetry Slam. A two-time winner of the Rustbelt Poetry Slam, Paul has served as Poet-in-Residence at Urban Word NYC and head poetry slam coach at Urban Arts Alliance in St. Louis, which won the Brave New Voices Grand Slam Championship in 2019. Paul is Poetry Editor (2016-Present) at The Offing Magazine, which won a Whiting Literary Magazine Prize from the Whiting Foundation. They are represented by Rob McQuilkin at Massie & McQuilkin and Eloisa Amezcua at Costura Creative. Source



There’s a dark so deep beneath the sea the creatures beget their own

light. This feat, this fact of adaptation, I could say, is beautiful


though the creatures are hideous. Lanternfish. Hatchetfish. Viperfish.

I, not unlike them, forfeited beauty to glimpse the world hidden


by eternal darkness. I subsisted on falling matter, unaware

from where or why matter fell, and on weaker creatures beguiled


by my luminosity. My hideous face opening, suddenly, to take them

into a darkness darker and more eternal than this underworld


underwater. I swam and swam toward nowhere and nothing.

I, after so much isolation, so much indifference, kept going


even if going meant only waiting, hovering in place. So far below, so far

away from the rest of life, the terrestrial made possible by and thereby


dependent upon light, I did what I had to do. I stalked. I killed.

I wanted to feel in my body my body at work, working to stay


alive. I swam. I kept going. I waited. I found myself without meaning

to, without contriving meaning at the time, in time, in the company


of creatures who, hideous like me, had to be their own illumination.

Their own god. Their own genesis. Often we feuded. Often we fused


like anglerfish. Blood to blood. Desire to desire. We were wild. Bewildered.

Beautiful in our wilderness and wildness. In the most extreme conditions


we proved that life can exist. I exist. I am my life, I thought, approaching

at last the bottom of the sea. It wasn’t the bottom. It wasn’t the sea.





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Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences

Extended Metaphor

a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times