The Mirror Diary
A volume in the Poets on Poetry series, which collects critical works by contemporary poets, gathering together the articles, interviews, and book reviews by which they have articulated the poetics of a new generation.
The Mirror Diary tracks the emergence of an original poetic voice and a learned consciousness amid multiple and sometimes competing influences of complex literary traditions and regional and ethnic histories. Beginning with a literary inquiry into the history of Japanese Americans in Hawai`i and California, Garrett Hongo draws on his own history to consider the mosaic of American identities—personal, cultural, and poetic—in the context of a postmodern diaspora.
Hongo’s essays attest to the breadth of what he considers his cultural inheritance and literary antecedents, ranging from the poets of China’s T’ang Dynasty to American poets such as Walt Whitman and Charles Olson. He explains free-verse prosody by way of John Coltrane’s jazz; praises his contemporaries, poets David Mura, Edward Hirsch, and Mark Jarman; and acknowledges his mentors, Bert Meyers and Charles Wright. In other pieces he engages with controversies and contestations in contemporary Asian American literature, confronts the politics of race and the legacy of Japanese American internment during World War II, offers paeans to the Hawaiian landscape, and addresses immigrants newly arrived in America with a warm welcome. The Mirror Diary is the work of a poet fully engaged with contemporary politics and poetics and committed to the study and celebration of diverse traditions.
“Hongo takes to heart Yeats’s assertion [ . . . ] that the poet who wishes to create a work that will last must first find metaphors in the natural landscape he was born to.”
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