Asian American Poets: Garrett Hongo

Can poetry be a channel to explore ourselves and the society? Or is religion the only one that can lift our consciousness enough to see the totality of us all? Are everyday stories, our cultural roots and socioeconomic circumstances, prejudice for other people and poetic inspiration all connected to point to our purpose? Do they point to our enlightenment? Let us find the answer in the work and life of Garret Hongo.

Garrett Hongo is the fourth generation Japanese American academic and poet. He was born in Volcano, Hawaii in 1951, where he also grew up, aside from Los Angeles. He studied at Pomona College, where he earned his BA. His MFA was earned at the University of California-Irvine where he studied with the poets C.K. Williams, Howard Moss and Charles Wright.

Regarding his poetry, it usually explores Asian Americans in the Anglo Society. The themes he writes about are deeply rooted in the problems of society, explained by his memories, images of his home and spirituality, all unveiled in the stories of people, families with a poetic inspiration and the personal need to raise his consciousness. Although one could explore life and consciousness through religion, Hongo chose to explore it through poetry. His style uses descriptive lists and repetitious word order and phrasing. The language that he uses is both elegant and lyrical in his poetry collections as well as in his prose memoir, Volcano, A Memoir of Hawaii (1995).

Image credits: - Anne Nygård, Thought Catalog

Garrett Hongo has received many awards for his work as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Also he edited the anthologies: The Open Boat: Poems from Asian America (1993), Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays, and Memoir (1994), and Under Western Eyes: Personal Essays from Asian America (1995).

He currently works as a distinguished professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and as professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon. He currently lives in Eugene with his wife and children.

Rather than giving a concrete answer we should all think about what makes our life tick and where it is going. If in doubt, we can always look to the works of amazing poets.

Indulge Yourself by reading some of Garrett Hongo’s poems (Find them in links to references):

The Legend
Something Whispered in Shakuhachi
What For
I Got Heaven
Cruising 99
Kubota to Zbigniew Herbert in Lvov, 1941

Written by: Mislav Zlomislić


Mislav Zlomislić is a digital marketing intern of PS Media Enterprise. He is a former student of Zagreb school of economics and management, Zagreb, Croatia


A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
based in California that advocates
social inclusion of minorities with
Asian heritage though cultural awareness.


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Asian American Poets: Garrett Hongo
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