Monday, March 27, 2006

APA Poets and Politics

In the comments section of my "City of God" post (see below), Hui Jeong raised an interesting question --- do you know of any conservative Asian Pacific American poets? I was stumped. Pam and Barbara joined the discussion, and we each had views on questions like this:

*who are the republican apa poets? *does poetry lend itself to more liberal politics? *(maybe) there are reasons (cultural or otherwise) why a poet (and in this case, specifically an apa poet) would not have the occasion or desire to address the political? maybe there's no place for such things in (or around) a poem? is it the perfect place?

a few new questions i have in mind: *who are some of the best political poets writing today? *are latino/a, native american, or african american poets or writers more likely to write about the political? why/why not? *how do you define a political poet? I'm curious what you all think about any or all of these questions. If you know of someone who'd have something to say about this, please direct them this way.


Roger Pao said...

Hey Lee, hope things are going well. Actually, I'd posted some thoughts on these questions here:

I'd say David Woo's poetry is conservative, though I'd make no claims on the poet himself. (I'm currently reading his book, The Eclipses.) Not just because Harold Bloom praises it and one of his poems is included in an anthology with Dana Gioia as one of its editors, but because of the substance of the poems themselves, which (unlike many other poems written nowadays) evince no particular concern for the typical set of liberal social/political issues that I note in my blog post. That's not passing judgment on the quality of the poems themselves, of course, which I still need more time to process.

Lee Herrick said...


trent lott's pantoum's. that's hilarious. i read your post from march 2005 and enjoyed it (i encourage others to read/re-read it).

bloom's blessing is certainly one marker of woo's book. like you, i would have to read more to form a real conclusion. i also wonder if the poet's ethnicity influences other words, is a poet from korea (with a recent history of oppression and war against imperialism) is more likely to write something revolutionary or political than someone from the imperialist country?

in your blog post you mention the iraq war as an example of a political subject. i agree with you there, but i also include the body-politic (as in the french feminists irigary and cixious), the economic-politic (i.e. the poets of work like jim daniels and philip levine), and the gender-politic (like in some of ishle yi park, barbara jane reyes, or even novelists who were first poets like alice walker or margaret atwood).

Sheryl said...

I think sometimes just writing about something that is not mainstream is called being political now-a-days. Maybe it is an unconscious means of marginalizing various groups. There is the argument that poetry can't be political. I heard this a lot in school, yet simply writing a poem, sometimes is a political act due to the expected restraints and the force of the mainstream ideal. I hope this makes sense. I'm in a hurry.

barbara jane said...

hi lee,

i am not familiar with david woo and will have to make it a point to find his work.

now, on the question whether poetry lends itself to more "liberal" politics, i will say no. no, it doesn't. i believe there are many poets (including poets of APA/API descent) who aspire for some kind of universalism in poetry. this insistence upon universalism i believe is a kind of conservative politics, for it negates and/or ignores that what is universal is culturally defined.

i think also, those who, as i've previously commented here, shy away from progressive politics, probably are mindful that such work may limit their chances of publication.

i want to also address sheryl's point that sometimes the act of writing itself can be construed as a political act. i agree with this to a certain extent, but also i think there are many poets who may be content to stop right there, in terms of 'taking a stand.' which is fine, i suppose. i think there are poets for whom political messages become straight didacticism, and in my opinion, this poetry falling into didacticism perhaps needs more attention to the poetry/the art itself.