Cover

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Half Title, Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, In Memoriam

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

I’d like to thank the editors of the periodicals, anthologies, and other books in which these writings, some in slightly different versions, first appeared: ...

Contents

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pp. ix-x

Section I

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The Mirror Diary

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pp. 3-15

When I was twenty, I decided to dedicate myself to the study of art and literature. It would be as if I were an apprentice in some religious practice, laying down the foundation of learning in letters and values both spiritual and moral that I would draw upon in later days. My yearning was intense, I thought, and my devotion almost absolute. ...

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In the Bamboo Grove: Some Notes on the Poetic Line

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pp. 16-29

The free verse line has been a troublesome and slippery thing to me, defying control and proper description, almost as elusive as what was called “the voice” in the sixties and early seventies. When I studied it, looking at examples from what my teachers (piously or facetiously, depending on their age and fashion of education) called “the canon," ...

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Sea and Scholarship: Confessional Narrative in Charles Olson’s “Maximus, to himself”

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pp. 30-43

I return to this poem from a long distance and span of time, having first read it in college one spring in California when the oaks on campus were blooming with chandeliers of pollen, their mustard-brown sprays of stamen-and-pistil a potent testament to the renewal and resurrection in the natural world. ...

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On Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

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pp. 44-47

The summer of ’73, I was on my way to Japan after graduating from college in California. I won a fellowship sweepstakes of sorts, one of the 70 graduates from 35 colleges across the country who’d been tapped for a swank nonacademic fellowship. What were my plans? “To fuck around and write for a year in Japan,” I said, smugly hip. ...

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The Academy Reading Series Featured Poet: R. S. Thomas

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pp. 48-53

The work of R. S. Thomas, Welsh poet and Anglican minister, born in 1913 and, therefore, like his American contemporary Kenneth Rexroth, a bit of a throwback to pre-Modern standards and sensibilities, was first introduced to me by my teacher, the late Bert Meyers. I had just returned to Los Angeles from Japan at the time and was on my way to Michigan for graduate school. ...

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From “A Poet’s Notebook”

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pp. 54-60

These journal pages emerged out of a time when I was “between books”—Yellow Light and The River of Heaven. I began it while working on a PhD in critical theory, then kept it through my first academic jobs—first as a visitor at USC and then at UC Irvine, next as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri. ...

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The Activity of the Poet

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pp. 61-78

I’m looking from the quiet window of my study at the honey locust and maple trees leafing out in the front yard. It’s mid-April and Missouri’s under a cold, navy-gray sky. A bird I don’t yet know the name of assembles its nest in the rain gutter of my house, and the intermittent thrash of passing cars and metallic rumble of big interstate rigs ...

Section II

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Ministry: Homage to Kīlauea

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pp. 81-90

Living on the mainland and in cities these past few years, I have grown confused about the earth. It had been my thought for a long stretch of time during my middle thirties—those years I’d lived in Volcano, Hawai‘i, that village in the rain forest where I was born—that one could learn to belong to a place, even a chosen place, in a way that would feel like home, ...

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A Man on a Child’s Swing: Contemporary Japanese Poetry

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pp. 91-95

Let me start with an image from Japanese cinema—it is of a man singing, the old bureaucrat played by Takashi Shimura in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, a drama of contemporary life. The man’s name is Watanabe, and he sings something desperate, poignant, and off-key as he sits in a child’s swing in a small park somewhere in the gray ruin of postwar Tokyo. ...

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Review of Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei by David Mura

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pp. 96-101

“I am a Sansei, a third-generation Japanese American. In 1984, through luck and through some skills as a poet, I traveled to Japan. My reasons for going were not very clear.”
These spare sentences declare the problems and cruxes of an extraordinarily wise and moving book, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei by Minnesota poet David Mura. ...

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Homage to Lost Worlds: Where I Write, Why I Write There

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pp. 102-104

I constantly find myself having to counteract what pop and postmodern culture provide me as scenic and narrative identities, backdrops for the play of consciousness, yet they have the appeal of mass (mis)recognition, visual referents others can attach to a story I’m telling, in prose or poetry, about Hawaiʻi, my childhood place. ...

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Working for the DWP

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pp. 105-106

Every summer between school years while I was in college, I worked as a seasonal meter reader for the Department of Water and Power of the City of Los Angeles. This meant that I spelled regular workers over the summer months so that they could take their vacations, about two weeks long each. As there was an entire pool of meter readers, ...

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In the Charles Wright Museum

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pp. 107-128

In the late spring of 1981, the skies were always a light azure blue during most of the days in Southern California, cypresses camphored out their scent from around the swimming pool below my living room window, and the soft green prisms of aspen leaves would spin and quake on all the small trees over the walkways of my apartment house. ...

Section III

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Introduction to Under Western Eyes: Culture Wars in Asian America

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pp. 131-165

Since the publication breakthrough of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior in 1976, an increasingly higher level of success and diversity has been emerging in Asian American literature. During the eighties, Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club was a runaway best seller and David Henry Hwang’s play M. Butterfly had a hugely successful run on Broadway, ...

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Gardens We Have Left

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pp. 166-171

When I was six, my family was living in Kahuku, Hawai‘i, on the windward north shore of the island of O‘ahu, a place since 1888 that was dedicated, until twenty years ago, to the cultivation of sugar cane. The abandoned cane fields still dominate the strip of flat land between the ocean and the green cliffs of the Ko‘olau Mountain, ...

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HR 442: Redress

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pp. 172-182

In April 1988, I was in the Senate gallery on hand for what I expected to be the final floor debate and passage of HR 442, legislation devised to compensate Japanese American survivors of the World War II relocation program. The idea was for the government to issue a formal apology and pay a financial settlement to anyone living who had suffered the forced evacuation ...

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Hope Alive: Writers at the Unconvention

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pp. 183-189

“Go on, Jesse!” Harvard philosopher Cornel West shouted from his bar seat, gesticulating at the television screen that showed Jesse Jackson speaking live before the Democratic Convention across town. West, the novelist Toni Morrison, and I were relaxing over drinks after our own event as part of the “Unconvention,” ...

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Lost in Place: Longing for the Brave New World of L.A.

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pp. 190-197

One Labor Day some years ago, I was sitting at the dining table at my place in Eugene, Oregon, gazing out of the picture window over the front lawn at my two boys, Hudson and Alex, as they took turns splashing around in a wading pool with a small group of their friends. It was Alex’s seventh birthday party, ...

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America Singing: An Address to the Newly Arrived Peoples

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pp. 198-210

I am fascinated and thrilled that there has been such a surge of new immigration from across the Pacific these past few years. That, as a country, we are again in the process of being renewed and reformed by the new Americans from Asia and elsewhere. ...