Monday, January 11, 2010

Lawson Inada

Did you know Sansei poet Lawson Inada is Oregon's poet laureate?

I don't know about you, but I'm blown away:   That's the kind of thing that can make you die happy:  "I was poet laureate of a whole state, dammit!"  I'm impressed, but as a born Seattleite, I've always kind of liked Oregon, home to environmental activists, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, anarchists, and other thoughtful people.

I talked to him today, long distance, because he doesn't have email.  I didn't ask him why, and I didn't say, "WTF?!", I just said, "Oh!"  I think that's the only fitting response to a poet laureate, one of the crazy Asian American writers who helped edit AIEEEEEE! and helped to create the entire Asian identity movement.  I established my own cred by telling him that I started off with the Asian Exclusion Act in 1976 when Garrett Hongo was Artistic Director, and he said, "Wow.  So you're OLD SCHOOL."


Anyway, since he gave us permission, I'd like to put more of his intro to NO-NO BOY on this blog.  Since I have to write it out by hand, I'm not going to include the whole thing, though if you have the book, you should read it because you'll be surprised by how many names you'll recognize.  I'll just include part of the end, because it's beautiful:

"You could say that John was 'ahead of his time,' that he was born too early and died too young.  That was back in the days when a man like him was an 'oriental' (...) before 'Asian America' even.  That was back in the days when a Jap was just a Jap.

"You could say all that about John and be wrong (...) John Okada was a man with a vision, and he saw it through (...) You can feel him as you read this book, the very heart of the man, throbbing, within you, making you stand up and move to others, filled with the passion and compassion of being (...)

"Love.  This is what you will feel, too, beneath the unaminity of brilliance:  love.  This is the gift and the measure of the man:  a legacy of love.  This is what sustains us, gives us hope and vision, ennobles our lives (...)

"Whoever reads this book will be a bigger person for it.  Whoever reads this book will never be the same.  Whoever reads this book will see, and be, with greater strength and clarity.  And in this way does the world begin to change (...)

"...John Okada's NO-NO BOY is much more than a great and lasting work of art.  It is a living force among us.  And it is just one of the many beautiful and courageous stories of the continuing story we know as Asian America."

Lawson Fusao Inada
La Grande Oregon
July 29, 1976

No comments:

Post a Comment