Wednesday, June 14, 2006
An Interesting Introduction
This is the publisher's blurb about "The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity in Asian American Poetry" by Xiaojing Zhou from the University of Iowa Press that's coming out this year:
"Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional "I" of lyric poetry - based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian "I" - to enact a more ethical relationship between the "I" and its others. Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's idea of the ethics of alterity - which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness - Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry. "The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity" is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries."
Don't get me wrong, I'm excited by the idea of the book, and will try and get a copy. I'm grateful to Xiaojing Zhou for writing this text. I think it's important for those in academics and MFAs, and it's a monumental undertaking.
On the other hand, speaking from the perspective of a practicing Asian American poet, I just find this sort of thing, well, tedious for non-academics.
Writers write, as they say, and this doesn't sound like the sort of thing that will easily win over any new fans from the general population to the marvels and joys of Asian American poetry.
And I believe there ARE marvels and joys to it.
But hey, I already wrote about this whole matter in my poem, "The Big G." in 2004, in less than 300 pages.
And, you know what, I think I'm just going to let that poem stand for the rest of my argument. Because that's what poetry is supposed to do anyway.