Sunday, June 19, 2005

An Announcement: Featuring and Reviewing Individual Asian American Poets

As you may have heard, my poetry critic-comrade Simon DeDeo ( has recently fallen to the time-vaporizing monster known as his astrophysics dissertation. Before he said his online farewell, however, he had been planning on reviewing Asian-American poetry, and he encouraged me to do so as well. I shared with him my up-until-now private fears that my reviews of Asian-American poetry would quite possibly offend, not be helpful, and not stimulate discussion at any rate. He asked me to reconsider, and I have.

Now that Simon has decided not to pursue his plans of reviewing Asian-American poetry, I have decided that it is up to me to carry the "DeDeo" torch -- at least with respect to Asian American poetry. So the announcement here is that I will be starting to feature/review individual poems by individual Asian-American poets on this blog. I cannot promise the brilliant precision of DeDeo's reviews (and I'd want to develop my own voice and cultivate my own style, at any rate), but I'll try, as DeDeo might put it, to live up to my responsibility to shine a light on the poetry of this community.

Careful readers of this blog will note that I am essentially announcing at least a slight departure from the content and rhythm of previous blog posts. It's probably about time. So far, I have been more interested in the "macro"-structures/phenomena of Asian American poetry, but I feel like I've covered most of that terrain by now. Don't get me wrong -- it's been fun, I have no regrets about dwelling on it, and I will continue to cover relatively more general topics on "Asian American poetry" should more occur to me. But I want to move this blog towards featuring individual AsianAmerican poets and their poems in the coming weeks and months as well.

How will I go about doing it? Good question! This is where you come in -- you folks, out there, who write Asian-American poetry.

Like DeDeo, I will be focusing on individual poems, but unlike DeDeo, I don't necessarily want to focus on poems published online. Actually, it won't be hard to find poems online. Pretty much all Asian American poets have at least a few poems somewhere on the World Wide Web. But you might not want someone to choose poems from five or six years ago and read/comment upon them as if they are as indicative of your work/philosophy of poetry and life today.

So, if you write Asian-American poetry and would prefer, I welcome you to e-mail me a poem that you want me to explore on this blog. You should also send me an updated bio (I could always cut-and-paste biographies available online, but they might be outdated). Otherwise, I'll probably just choose the online poem that I think is the most recent and/or most indicative of your body of poetry and the bio that I think is the most recent one.

I'm hoping that this enterprise will be productive and that not only will I learn a lot from it but that readers of this blog and random websurfers who happen upon this blog by googling "Billy Collins and speedo" will watch just a little bit less of Wimbledon on television and take greater notice of the interesting work that is being done in Asian American poetry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck to you Roger! Sorry I never got around to doing it myself.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

I've been visiting and enjoying your blog for a few months, though haven't gotten around to posting any comments before this (I'm not new to the web but only started my own blog this spring).

Looking forward to the reviews, as well as whatever else you'll be posting.

For some time I've been interested in finding out more about the earliest Asian-American poets. Two I know of offhand (though they're both perhaps writers mostly of prose, in the strict sense), and whose work I like much, from the earlier half of the 20th century are Sadakichi Hartmann and Carlos Bulosan; I'm sure there must be others I don't know about, from the same period and possibly earlier.

(I'm not discounting here the poetry -- often by unknown authors -- of Angel Island and the "internment" camps, though have particularly wondered about any poetry by authors whose names have remained associated with the poems.)

If at any point you care to say anything about either of the above two poets/writers, and anything else about the earlier origins of Asian-American poetry, I'd be quite interested.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Simon,
Thanks a lot for posting here! I appreciate it. Best of luck w/your dissertation.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Lyle,

Thanks a lot for visiting. Gold stars for the Sadakichi Hartmann reference!, as he seems to have fallen by the wayside in the poetry vernacular.

For starters, I'd recommend Juliana Chang's "A Historical Anthology of Asian American Poetry, 1892-1970," which has a well-researched introduction that traces Asian American poetry back at least 110 years (and even more -- for example, Chinese immigrants had formed poetry clubs and were writing poems in Chinese even before then.)

Also, you should try "Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940," edited by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung.

Also, maybe "Social History through the Lens of Literature: The Fiction and Poetry of the Japanese American Survivors of America's World War II Concentration Camps," edited by Margaux Cambara. I haven't read this volume yet, but it might be worth checking out, if you're interested in Japanese American poetry from the WWII era.

At any rate, yes, that's a good idea -- I do plan on reaching back historically for some of my upcoming reviews.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

Roger -- thanks for the book recommendations. I'll go looking for them.

For what it's worth, I first heard of Sadakichi Hartmann in Kenneth Rexroth's book Twentieth Century American Poetry. Sometime a few years ago in a used book store in Minneapolis (where I live) I found a copy of White Chrysanthemums, a selection of short prose writings, journals excerpts, aphorisms, etc., by Hartmann. It's wonderful.

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