poet

Garrett Hongo

1951- , Volcano , HI , United States
Garrett Hongo

Japanese American poet, Garrett Hongo, was born in Volcano, Hawai'i, on May 30, 1951. He attended Pomona University and the University of Michigan. He received his MFA in English from the University of California at Irvine.

His collections of poetry include Coral Road: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011); The River of Heaven (1988), which was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Yellow Light (1982). He is also the author of Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai'i (1995), and he has edited Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays and Memoir by Wakako Yamauchi (1994) and The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America (1993).

His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Oregon at Eugene, where he directed the Program in Creative Writing from 1989 to 1993.

by this poet

poem

In memory of Jay Kashiwamura

In Chicago, it is snowing softly
and a man has just done his wash for the week.
He steps into the twilight of early evening,
carrying a wrinkled shopping bag
full of neatly folded clothes,
and, for a moment, enjoys
the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper,
poem

I swear that, in Gardena, on a moonlit suburban street,
There are souls that twirl like kites lashed to the wrists of the living
And spirits who tumble in a solemn limbo between 164th
And the long river of stars to Amida’s Paradise in the West.

As though I belonged, I’ve come from
poem
No one knew the secret of my flutes,
and I laugh now
because some said
I was enlightened.
But the truth is 
I'm only a gardener
who before the War
was a dirt farmer and learned
how to grow the bamboo
in ditches next to the fields,
how to leave things alone
and let the silt build up
until it was deep enough to