Jason Koo is a New Yorker by birth and a Clevelander by nurture whose three collections of poetry published between 2009 and 2018 has received significant critical acclaim as well as a growing audience. Koo’s academic credentials are beyond reproach: a BA from Yale, an MFA from the Univ. of Houston and a doctorate in creative writing from the Univ. of Missouri-Columbia. The overachiever can also lay claim to prestigious fellowships from the NEA and New York Writers Institute. In addition to an early stake as a major force to come in American poetry, Koo also teaches at Quinnipiac University and somehow found the time to create the non-profit Brooklyn Poets organization.
Koo’s first book of poetry, Man on Extremely Small Island, was recognized with an Asian American Literary Award Member’s Prize selection as the best Asian-American book of the year as well as earning the De Novo Poetry Prize. Koo followed that debut five years later with America’s Favorite Poem with a third volume—More Than Mere Light—appearing in 2018.
Koo’s verse is notable for its accessible vernacular and conversational tone that often takes the form of a self-reflective monologue on everyday events in the lives of post-millennial American society with a special emphasis—though not in a way that undermines the universality—on the Asian-American experience. What is perhaps most spectacularly surprising about Koo’s body of work is that it almost seem to be written in opposition to his quite obvious academic expertise. Koo writes verse not destined to be pored over by scholars and accessed only as a result of an essay assignment. His voice is that of the regular guy who eats Butterfingers in bed, wonders exactly what it means for a cookie to be labeled as “great” and seems, perhaps, to have solve one of the great mysteries of the modern age: what is the difference, exactly, between “mild” salsa and “medium” salsa.