Follow Harriet on Twitter
Expanding the canon
Timothy Yu, a poet and professor of English and Asian American Studies, solidly makes a case for Asian American poetry at the Academy of American Poets website. Though Asian American poetry is largely absent from the cannon today, Yu points out its early centrality to Asian American studies:
Any classroom account of how we came to be studying Asian American literature has to begin with an understanding of the Asian American movement of the 1970s, which helped establish Asian American studies as an academic discipline. The central genre of this period was not prose, but poetry. Early Asian American journals such as Gidra and Bridge included regular poetry features; the first Asian American literary magazine, Aion, was founded by two poets; and anthologies such as Roots: An Asian American Reader included generous selections of poetry—and no fiction.
Yu then suggests that Asian American poems should be chosen for study based on the quality of work – not tokenism:
The bottom line, then, is that we should not shy away from giving poetry a central place in the Asian American literature classroom—and, indeed, that we should not shy away from giving Asian American poetry a central place in the way we teach literature more generally. Rather than adopting a defensive position in which we read a few token poems that do the same kind of narrative work that stories and novels do, we should expose students to the most exciting and exploratory work.