Betsy Aoki with Cookie Hiponia — Breakpoint

"Betsy Aoki has magically brought the technological—and in her hands, playful—language of computing into the realm of poetry. . . No one else could write these marvelous poems."—Kimiko Hahn

Third Place Books welcomes poet, short story writer, and game producer Betsy Aoki to our Ravenna store! Aoki will discuss her debut poetry collection Breakpointa 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist and winner of Tebot Bach's Patricia Bibby First Book Award—in conversation with local author Cookie Hiponia. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.

Copies of Breakpoint will be available for purchase at the store. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About Breakpoint. . .

Dedicated to 'all the women in tech making it happen,’ Breakpoint by Betsy Aoki is a debut poetry collection that combines intense lyrical free verse with found Python “code poems” to explore the modern technological and societal landscape.

Aoki, a video game producer by day, brings the reader into her world of polygons and fractals, Japanese folklore and family stories, computational language and robot factories, and the timeless yearning to be seen clearly. The machines speak in this book, but more strongly the women in tech’s voices rise in the rooms where the future is being made.

Breakpoint was a finalist for the National Poetry Series in 2019, and won the Patricia Bibby First Book Award in 2021 by Tebot Bach. The $500 Bibby Award prize from Tebot Bach was donated to donated to Black Girls Code.


Praise for Breakpoint. . .

"Betsy Aoki has magically brought the technological—and in her hands, playful—language of computing into the realm of poetry: breakpoint, collide, return—and of course, code. Her poems using digital diction are quirky and adamant—here is a woman in a male-dominated field staking her territory in real life and in metaphor. A second code, so to speak is Japanese American culture, hers. In these Aoki takes us to internment camps to anime to Japanese legends and beyond. Across this debut collection we come to see various dimensions of the poet and how what seems disparate collide and collude into unique poetry. No one else could write these marvelous poems—enjoy!"
Kimiko Hahn, author of Foreign Bodies

“This poem unwinds toward unexpected shifts and turns in just a few lines. And it manages a kind of lyric punch at the mention of each image.”
Jericho Brown, author The Tradition, of the book's signature poem "Slouching Like a velvet rope"

"Breakpoint is an evocative mixture of sensual experiences, and mathematically infused linguistic patterns. Coding offers a way to store and retrieve details, a blueprint for narratives that link the poems to love, trust, and persistence/resilience. Much like a word problem, the poems underscore the way we store and retrieve details. Of the many ways we can remember—sound, taste, smell, texture—coding allows us to leave a trail in the chaos of random experiences where those details may be easily reached and reassembled. Reminiscent of Alice Fulton’s Fractal Poetics, these poems assemble, conflate and arrange: what we know, what we feel, and what we remember.  You don’t have to be a coder to know it’s love when memory and language share the same equation."
Colleen J. McElroy, author of Blood Memory

Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki is a poet, short story writer and game producer. Her first poetry collection, Breakpoint, was a 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist and received Tebot Bach's Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Its signature poem, "Slouching like a velvet rope," was selected by Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown as the winner of the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize. She has received fellowships/grants from the City of Seattle, Artist Trust, Jackstraw Writers Program and residencies at Hedgebrook and Clarion West Writers Workshop. She currently serves as an assistant poetry editor at and on the board of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Learn more at or follow her on twitter at @baoki.

Cookie Hiponia was born in the Philippines and immigrated to America when she was nine years old. As the mother of children born into two cultures, Cookie had spent years searching for books that reflect her family’s experience. When she couldn’t find such a book, Cookie heeded Toni Morrison and wrote the book she wanted to read with her daughters. We Belong is that book, a semi-autobiographical middle grade novel-in-verse about the Pilipina/o/x American immigrant experience that weaves in Tagalog cosmic mythology. It’s in bookstores under Cookie’s other name “Cookie Hiponia Everman.” Cookie lives in Seattle with her family. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @titacookie1974.

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