Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Conservative Asian American Poets?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most conservative of them all? The complete absence of politically conservative Asian American poets parallels the near-complete absence of politically conservative non-Asian-American poets.

What do I mean by "politically conservative poets"? Well, for example, poets writing poems advocating American participation in the Iraqi war, favoring measures to drill in the Alaska and opposing environmental measures that restrict economic development, or opposing same sex marriages. Asian-American poets could be writing poems taking these positions. They are not, at least to the best of my knowledge.

When I was an undergrad, I did poli sci research on the political ideologies of Asian-Americans across the liberal-conservative spectrum. (I question the wisdom of creating/using such a spectrum, but let's just pretend that I believe in such a spectrum for now.) Various polls indicate that Asian-Americans grew more liberal in the 1990s versus the 1980s, though the polls may be biased, because the percentage of Asian-Americans in the general population is so low, and most of the statistical studies that have been done (of Asian-Americans in large eastern cities) tend to be biased because people in these cities are more liberal in general. Acknowledging these limitations, the studies do suggest that Asian-Americans are less liberal than African-Americans and Latino-Americans but more liberal than Caucasian-Americans.

Not to say that Asian-American poets would be politically representative of the Asian-American population at any rate. Poets, politically speaking, are not politically representative of the general population. Of course, since our politicians have already achieved a state of sublime perfection, we have nothing to worry about. ;)

But sometimes I do worry about the homogeneity of poets/poetry, more generally, as well as the homogeneity of Asian American poets/poetry, more specifically. Now I wouldn't sit down and read a book of Trent Lott's pantoums. But I think it is a legitimate question to ask whether poets who come out of roughly the same socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, class, educational background tend to produce poems that might otherwise focus on different concerns and may arguably have different stylistic elements. It is a question sometimes asked in the field of law, which like the field of poetry, has its own homogeneities that are reproduced by lawyers through law.

4 Comments:

Blogger pam said...

Roger,

I just discovered your blog today and immediately added it to my bookmarks list. You raise some really good questions here and throughout. Keep up the good work.

Personally I couldn't be happier that there aren't politically conservative API poets out there. (Although, give it a few years, I'm sure they'll pop out of the woodwork somehow...) There's already enough conservative API grassroots action going on out there, and I for one still cling to the possibly naive hope that the poets may be representative of the left/reformist wing of Asian Americans who will continue to counter the growing numbers of their Republican cousins.

Anyway, you provide much fodder to comment on in your blog. I will try to fill in some of my back-responses in the coming days or weeks. For now, thanks for this.

-Pam

2:55 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hello Pam, thanks for the comments! Yeah, actually, I can't think of any prominent politically conservative poets in general. I mean, there are poets that one might think of as stylistically conservative but whose politics are rather liberal or at least libertarian. That said, just look around some state poetry societies and vanity publications, and one will find that conservative poets are out there.

6:26 PM  
Blogger familyfridge said...

Believe it or not, there are more conservative poets than you would think. Most live in fear and keep their political views quiet. Being a conservative poet--like being a conservative professor in an American University--is like being Catholic in Renaissance England: It might nought mean death, but you sure as hell ain't gonna work.

Alas, it's a oppressive time for free thought.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Thomas Newton said...

Roger,

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most conservative of them all?

Thomas Newton
Conservative Poet

4:32 PM  

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