Tuesday, May 27, 2003

my ship does not need
a helmsman.
only a woman
who strokes my
and laughs
at the moon
when it is full.

It may be that the political power of this poem is in its pathos—its moving picture of a life lost to history, which might spur a reader into compassion and action. But there can be no question that its emotional effect derives directly from its explict turn away from politics, from the "helmsmen" of the public world, whether they be statesmen or community organizers. If this, for writers like Hongo, is Asian American poetry coming into its maturity, it does so by separating the public and private and severing poetry’s explicit links to politics.


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