The Mirror Diary

Selected Essays
Garrett Hongo
Poet Garrett Hongo’s complex heritage as a Japanese-American with roots in Hawai’i and California informs and shapes his poetic sensibilities


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.”
—Sigrid Nunez
Garrett Hongo is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Oregon. He is the author Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai`i and the poetry collections Coal Road; Yellow Light; and The River of Heaven, winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; he has edited or coedited several highly regarded collections of contemporary Asian American writing. Hongo has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Florence.

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  • 220 pages.
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  • 2017
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  • 978-0-472-12329-2

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