Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Point Five - The Yasusada Hoax Revisited

In what will probably mark a conclusion to this series of posts in reference to Eric H's long and informative, I am responding to Eric's suggestion that we read the poetry of "Araki Yasusada" closely and deal with it seriously. Well, I think I agree with it in principle, but sometimes I wonder...and this will take me away from the Yasusada hoax and into an even more global discussion over poetry.

While I feel strongly about the importance of giving indivdiual poems close readings, I sometimes wonder if poets, and other readers of poetry, pay such close attention to the trees that they miss the forest. My concern here is that we should also think seriously about why poetry should be important to society and why we are reading the poems that we are reading.

The latter question particularly intrigues me. I know full well that no one can read every poem ever written. We must pick and choose. People in power pick and choose, and essentially, they decide what we read and then control the discourse for us. There may be isolated instances of rebellion -- and the blogosphere may greatly assist in the democratization of poetry -- and poets themselves may read more widely. But basically, a narrow set of "experts" building upon the "wisdom" of another narrow set of predecessors generally dictate our reading of poetry.

I think, at its core, that is what the anger of many Asian-American poets, now somewhat dissipated, towards the Yasusada hoax was about. It was an anger directed towards a "poetry establishment" that has never been really thought seriously about Asian-American poetry, either in general or specific Asian-American poets or specific books of Asian-American poetry. Doubled Flowering, in this sense, may have been a source of triumph for Asian-American critics of the hoax, because here was concrete evidence of the non-Asian-Americans' fascination with Asian-ish sounding ideas coupled with the near-complete disinterest in both the historical and contemporary dimensions of Asian-American poetry. The grievances of Asian-American poets could no longer be ignored.

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