Asian Pacific American Poetry

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      Like poetry by Chicano and Hispanic writers, Asian-American poetry is exceedingly varied. The Americans of Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino descent may have lived in the United States for seven generations while Americans of Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese heritage are likely to be fairly recent immigrants. Each group grows out of a distinctive linguistic, historical, and cultural tradition. The recent developments in Asian-American literature have included an emphasis on the Pacific Rim studies and women’s writing. Asian-Americans generally are resisting the orientalizing racial stereotype “exotic” and “good” minority. Aestheticians are beginning to compare Asian and Western literary traditions- for example, comparing the concepts of Tao and Logos.

      Asian-American poets have drawn on many sources. From Chinese Opera to Zen, and Asian literary traditions, particularly Zen, have inspired numerous non-Asian poets, as can be seen in the 1991 anthology Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry. Asian-American poets aspen a spectrum, from the iconoclastic posture taken by Frank chin, co-editor of Aiieeeeel (an early anthology of Asian-American literature), to the generous use of tradition by writers such as novelist Maxine Hong Kingston. Janice Mirkitani, a sansei (third-generation Japanese-American) evokes Japanese-American history and has edited several anthologies such as Third World Women, Time to Greez, and Ayumi: Four Generations of Japanese in America. Chinese - American Cathy Songslyrical Picture Bride (1983) also dramatizes history through the lives of her family. Many Asian American poets explore cultural diversity. In Song “The Vegetable Air” (1988), the poet describes a shabby town with cows in the plaza, a Chinese restaurant, and a Coca-Cola sign hung askew. It becomes an emblem of rootless multicultural contemporary life made bearable by art, in this case, an opera on cassette.

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