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About this poet

Japanese American poet, Garrett Hongo, was born in Volcano, Hawai'i, on May 30, 1951. He attended Pomona College 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 (Knopf, 2011); The River of Heaven (Knopf, 1988), which was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Yellow Light (Wesleyan University Press, 1982). He is also the author of The Mirror Diary: Selected Essays (University of Michigan Press, 2017) and Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai'i (Knopf, 1995), winner of the Oregon Book Award for nonfiction.

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

He is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon at Eugene, where he directed the creative writing program from 1989 to 1993.



Coral Road: Poems (Knopf, 2011)
The River of Heaven (Knopf, 1988)
Yellow Light (Wesleyan University Press, 1982)


The Mirror Diary: Selected Essays (University of Michigan Press, 2017)
Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai'i (Knopf, 1995)

Blues with a Feeling, Cassis

It’s a hazy day and an onshore wind blows in from off the Mediterranean
                                                                                               in Aeolian puffs
that billow the straw-colored drapes I’ve drawn aside for this Dufy-like
view of pleasurecraft, Zodiac boats, and double-deck tour cruisers
off to the Calanques and their narrow bays of glittering Byzantine blues.
A battered fishing dinghy and what looks like a Chris-Craft nearly collide
                                                                                                 in the channel,
and I can only consider the solace of waters shading from celadon to cyan.

It’s a better discipline than calculating my equity balance on May 28, 2005,
than rowing in a flat scull cutting past the fearful prow of a dread future.
Seagulls peep like Erinyes wearing white linen suits, sky-jockeying
                                                      and sailing in the graying zenith of woe.
I’m just a dharmakaya short of True Enlightenment, my Self and Soul
paralyzed between Baldo and the blues. . . .

What would the Householder of the Azure Lotus say
                                          about my life without consolation?
Issa about my having lost nothing but the dew of morning
to the engines of weather, these benign winds of nonchange
                                                                     from the Cyrenaica and Fezzan?

I make a fretful drama of sinecural worries, the orchestral churn of care
galloping over the currents in my blood like that frantic outboard
on a boat half past the horizon and too far out for rescue or secure return.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

Garrett Hongo

Garrett Hongo

Japanese American poet, Garrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawai'i, in 1951.

by this poet

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 my life of papers and exile

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,
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