Thursday, January 13, 2005

Asian Americans Don't Write Poetry

Or so the stereotype goes. Daryl Ngee Chinn said something to this effect in one of his poems in Soft Parts on the Back. "Writing poetry" isn't an anti-Asian or anti-Asian American stereotype that I've ever witnessed being thrown around, like being an engineer, a math geek, or a computer nerd. It's not being a dragon lady, a kung fu master, a laundry person, a submissive prostitute, or a sushi chef either.

I wonder if some Asian Americans, in some way, are rebelling against stereotype through the writing of poetry. In other words, is the act of portraying oneself as a "poet" and/or writing poetry an act of rebellion for some Asian Americans?

By the way, poets are losers. I've heard it from both Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans. Whenever I call myself a "poet" now or tell anyone that I write "poetry," from experience, I'm always wary of the audience. You know, unless I'm in the mood to be basically told that poets are no better than homeless bums -- perhaps worse because you've actually chosen to be a poet, and some bums don't choose their lifestyle. Poets are losers primarily because poets make no money. That makes poets even worse than novelists, short story writers, essayists, and others in the literary field.

From experience, in general, I have also found Asians and Asian Americans to be less accepting of my poetry habit than non-Asian Americans. It begs the question whether there is some truth in the "model minority" stereotype of the striving for capitalist success among Asian Americans. I think that it's just impossible for some of my family members to fathom how anyone could spend time writing poetry or, even more atrociously, maintaining a blog on poetry.

Of course, academics and teachers, both Asian American and non-Asian American, commit the same error of believing that Asian Americans don't write poetry when they don't teach Asian American poetry in the classroom or evince any interest in reading it. But I must also consider whether I am committing the same error when I don't tell people that I read and write poetry, because I'm self-conscious of criticism. If I really cared about overcoming stereotypes against Asian Americans, poetry, and Asian American poetry, I should probably be more public with it.

So, SAY IT LOUD, "I Love Asian American Poetry and I'm Proud of It." I won't promise that people will still think you're sane.

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