Tuesday, March 22, 2005

comments on Roger Pao's blog



Pao: "Why do people hate Asian-American poetry? One interesting critique often levied against Asian American poetry is its engagement in identity politics/ethnic studies -- that is an evil per se."

Me: "I read the Garret Hongo edited Open Boat. I enjoyed it. I find context interesting. I had previously read most of the poets in Open Boat elsewhere but reseeing them as 'Asian-American' poets rather than 'just poets' gave them a new context. I don't claim any great revelations but I see no reason not to present a collection like this, especially since many of the poets included seem to feel being in the company of other Asian American poets gives them something that otherwise dissipates among the mass of American poetry/ies.

I think this has been true of women included in anthologies of poetry by women. Or Native American poets.

And I know I feel ... empowered isn't quite the word ... encouraged? ... something anyway ... something I like when I read a book of poems by gay poets; being gay it's nice to be able to put myself in the context of other gay poets (whether I ever appear in such an anthology myself). I don't seem to love the work more frequently than in other sorts of anthologies but I do recognize familiar stances, ways of being or thinking or looking, strategies of disguise and allusion or revelation. And there are in such an anthology things to which the ol' white male het seems oblivious. I like the opportunity to have context available."

Pao: "I've wondered whether there is the same phenomenon in the publication of 'gay poetry' as there is in 'Asian-American poetry' of not sounding 'too gay' or 'too Asian-American.'"

Me: "Historically one must say that the only way to publish until quite recently was to de-gay one's writing. I'm sure it's still true that gay writers tone down the details, despite the many publishing out & prouds.

I don't seem to write erotic poetry, I don't even write very many autobiographical poems, and you won't find many of my poems addressing gay-specific issues, but I would be happy to be included in an anthology of gay poets ... you've asked, is it an asian-american poem if it's subject matter is not noticeably 'asian-american'? ... is it a gay poem? a male poem or female poem? While it's a mistake to declare the context more important than the art, the context provides the art's frame and many's the time the frame tells us much about ourselves and audience."

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