Launch for Jenny Qi / Focal Point, with Francesca Bell & Mariya Zilberman

Free Event

Wed, October 13th, 2021 @ 6:00PM PDT

Booksmith is thrilled to host the virtual launch event for Jenny Qi and her debut poetry collection, Focal Point, a group reading and conversation with Francesca Bell and Mariya Zilberman. Join us!

This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required. Event link will be sent to everyone who registers.

You can order *signed copies* of Focal Point here and we'll ship them directly to you (or hold for pickup at our San Francisco shop).

We are happy to fulfill orders anywhere in the world – international postage will be invoiced separately. If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to contact events@booksmith.com.


About the book

Winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award, Focal Point is a scientist's unofficial dissertation, a daughter's faithful correspondence, and a coming-of-age story. Written largely while Jenny Qi was a young Ph.D. student conducting cancer research after her beloved mother's death from cancer, the collection turns to "all the rituals of all the faiths," invoking Western and Eastern mythology and history, metaphors from cell biology, and even Jimi Hendrix, as Qi searches for a container to hold grief. The opening poem of this debut collection primes us to consider all definitions of the titular "focal point," as the speaker evaluates this moment of early loss beneath a literal and metaphoric microscope. Here, the past and future converge, but from here, what does divergence look like? What can a scientific mind do except interrogate and attempt to measure the unknown and immeasurable? These poems, at once tender and suffused with wry humor, diverse in form and scope, go on to navigate illness, early relationships, racism, climate change, mass shootings, and the COVID-19 pandemic, unflinching in the face of death and the darker side of human nature. At its core, Focal Point is an uncompromising interrogation of how to be alive in the world, always loving something that has been or is in the process of being lost.


About the authors

Jenny Qi is the author of the debut poetry collection Focal Point, winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award. Her essays and poems have been published widely in newspapers and literary journals, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she has received fellowships from Tin House, Omnidawn, Kearny Street Workshop, and the San Francisco Writers Grotto. Born in Pennsylvania to Chinese immigrants, she grew up mostly in Las Vegas and Nashville and now resides in San Francisco, where she completed her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology and currently works in oncology consulting. At the end of graduate school, she co-founded and produced the science storytelling podcast Bone Lab Radio, where she wrote and talked a lot about death. She is working on more essays and poems and translating her late mother’s memoirs of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and immigration to the U.S. 

Francesca Bell is author of Bright Stain (Red Hen Press, 2019), finalist for the Washington State Book Award and Julie Suk Award, and What Small Sound (Red Hen Press, 2023). She is translator of Max Sessner’s collection, Kitchens and Trains (Red Hen Press, 2023). Her work appears in New Ohio Review, North American Review, Mid-American Review, Prairie Schooner, and Rattle. 

Mariya Zilberman is a writer and educator born in Minsk, Belarus. She received the 2020 Ploughshares Emerging Writer's Award in Poetry, and her work has also appeared in Columbia Journal and The Kenyon Review. Mariya earned an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she currently teaches. 


This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required.

Pictured above, clockwise from the top: Jenny Qi, Mariya Zilberman, Francesca Bell – photos courtesy of the authors.