Friday, January 07, 2005

Azn Poets and Poetry

I've been rambling about Asian-American poets and poetry on this blog. Here I want to add "azn" poets to the mix. It is difficult to define "azn." Assuming "azn" poetry is poetry written by "azn" poets, I would say that "azn" describes an Asian-American who (1) has grown up in America, (2) typically lives in or near a major US city, (3) wears spiked and/or bleached hair, (4) listens to hip hop/rap/R&B and is probably a fan of Eminem, (5) is fascinated by certain Japanese cars like Hondas, (6) has no problem using any racial epithets about any race, (6) is typically 25 years old and under, (7) likes clubbing and raving, (8) is consumeristic, (9) has a bawdy sense of humor, (10) sometimes dislikes the "foreignness" of newer Asian immgrants, (11) often cannot speak an Asian language, (12) uses the term "azn pride" to denote power in their identity. Of course, you don't have to have all these characteristics to be "azn," but usually, you have several in combination.

In the LA area, where I grew up, there were many "azns" and thus "azn" poets. Even though I never considered myself to be one, I had many friends in middle and high school who chose this persona. But having lived elsewhere in the US, I realize that the vast majority of Americans probably don't have a clue of what I'm talking about, so I'm trying to clarify here.

Linguistically, "azn" writing may be distinguished from "Asian-American" writing by the use of the words "linguistically" and "distinguished." :) Seriously. Azns take pride in not writing so high-fallutin' and often writing in some alternation of caps and lower case letters in blogs and e-mails. Here's a quick sample: "wOO Hoo!! yO, mAh pEepS dowN iN cAlI goT prYde." Sorry, I don't do it well.

On "azn poetry," I would have to say that it is profoundly influenced by the R&B and hip hop scene. Because most "azn poets" are under 25, the most common subject is love -- professions of love and heartbreak -- especially among azn teenagers. Azn poets blog about it all the time. Racism and pride in one's race are also fairly common themes, though immigration, assimilation, and food are almost non-existent from this canon. The vast majority of "azn poets" are totally unconcerned with workshopping and publication, and poetry, to them, is purely about self-expression and communication of intimacy. I still read the poems online, from time to time, for their powerfully urgent sincerity.

I think that azn poets and poetry are most common in the spoken word scene. Poets that may arguably be identified as "azn" poets include Ishle Yi Park, Bao Phi, and Beau Sia, though their poems are more sophisticated. I think, that at its core, azn poetry is a grassroots poetry "movement" that is not really a movement at all. Its near-total disengagement from what is an "appropriate" aesthetic is itself an aesthetic -- an aesthetic of rebellion. I haven't come across anything that has been written about "azn poetry" as a collective entity, though, and I'm hoping that this entry will help in the discussion.


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