Introduction

By John Yau b. 1950 John Yau
It had to be from someone whose grandparents were born in Shanghai
not the city’s greatest citizens, but certainly among the sober ones
to make their small now eroded mark
It had to be from a distant or dissolute descendant (yes, moi)
who can sing praises unworthy of even a flicker of your attention

Doesn’t this sound like it might turn into a love poem or a prayer
Well, you are wrong, because a man of the people,
which I am not nor will I ever be,
doesn’t single out one above all others
as this is a hierarchical construction
and therefore undemocratic and antihumanist

It had to be from someone whose virtues do not include stubbornness,
patience, gentleness, loyalty, or truthfulness

It had to be from someone who could take my place
after I left the room
never to return

It had to be from someone who didn’t exist
before this poem
began writing itself down

John Yau, “Introduction” from Paradiso Diaspora. Copyright © 2006 by John Yau. Reprinted by permission of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA), LLC.

Source: Paradiso Diaspora (Penguin Books, 2006)

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Poet John Yau b. 1950

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

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Biography

Poet, art critic, and curator John Yau has published over 50 books of poetry, fiction, and art criticism. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1950 to Chinese emigrants, Yau attended Bard College and earned an MFA from Brooklyn College in 1978. His first book of poetry, Crossing Canal Street, was published in 1976. Since then, he has won acclaim for his poetry’s attentiveness to visual culture and linguistic surface. In poems that . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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