Sunday, January 25, 2009

Frank Rich's "No Time for Poetry"

Frank Rich weighs in this morning with his usual acumen in the New York Times. But this time his op-ed's headline “No Time for Poetry,” waves a warning flag to this poet, poetry professor, teacher of this semester's seminar, Poetry & Politics. What can he mean, no time for poetry? And so Rich begins: “President Obama did not offer his patented poetry in his Inaugural Address. He did not add to his cache of quotations in Bartlett's . . . . there's a reason that this speech was austere, not pretty. Form followed content.”

Whenever I begin a poetry course, I ask students to define the word “poetry.” Rich's definition appears to be “something we have time for” (a luxury, in other words); words that end up in Bartlett's (hence used for speeches before Chambers of Commerce in the fog of a future time); “pretty, not austere,” and “form that precedes content.” I will beg to disagree in a moment to each of these definitions.

Rich's op-ed goes on to set the recent Gilded Age of rampant capitalism and consumerism against the sacrifices that must come, sacrifices that Obama frames in quite personal terms (offering to reduce your own hours at work so that a co-worker does not lose her job, for example). We have been irresponsible, and we must become responsible; that's what Rich gets from Obama's speech, and rightfully so.

And yet Rich also makes a distinction between the gildedness and irresponsibility of poetry and the responsible austerity of plain speaking. “The austerity of Obama's Inaugural Address seemed a tonal corrective,” Rich continues, “to the glitz and the glut.” The speech, according to a friend of Rich's, was “stoic, stern, crafted in slabs of granite, a slimmed-down sinewy thing entirely evolved away from the kind of Pre-Raphaelite style of his earlier oration.” Without even pointing to the way in which this distinction is gendered, the notion that poetry cannot be stoic or stern—or even find itself in slabs of granite, for god's sake—reveals the writer's ignorance of a long tradition of political poetry, socially conscious poetry, even Wallace Stevens's late poems!

For Rich, poetry equals campaign mode, while austere prose equals sober governance. Wimpy Kumbaya is poetry, but now we've matured. Or something. You get the message already.

I cannot argue against the content of Rich's piece, but I can argue against the form of this argument, one that posits poetry as the too much, the excess of our lives. I can even point to Rich's own sentence, toward the end of the piece: “No one truly listening to the Inaugural Address could doubt that this former community organizer intends to demand plenty from us as we face down what he calls 'raging storms.'” What are “raging storms” but a metaphor (a piece of poetry) that stands for the more prosaic “bad times,” “recession,” “wars abroad"? Here Obama, if not Rich, has distilled the essence of our state as a nation into a (none too fresh) metaphor. He has explained us to ourselves in poetic language.

And even if Obama's Inaugural was not as poetic as, say, his 2004 Keynote at the Democratic National Convention, I would argue that the 2004 speech bound the country together in a way that no non-poetic speech could have done. We did not have as much poetry on January 20th in Obama's speech, but his ongoing poem was everywhere around us, in the two million people on the mall and on televisions across the country. We were there as a part of a poem, not in its despite.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Peter Cole & Fat Ulu

This past Thursday I attended a lecture and reading by Peter Cole, who translates poetry from Hebrew and Arabic and runs Ibis Editions in Jerusalem. His talk centered on the work of Aharon Shabtai, a leftist Israeli writer of baroque and bitter poems, and on Taha Muhammad Ali, a Palestinian poet whose poetry is as indirect as one of his long, bent fingers. I was interested in Cole's work as a translator and publisher because Tinfish Press has published a chapbook about Shabtai and Cole's press, which concludes with a long poem by Leonard Schwartz (see Tinfish Press). To publish poems by poets on opposing sides of a conflict is an important task; Tinfish is not so much about conflict (although it often is) as about publishing writers generally not thought to have much to say to one another.

Among Cole's topics were the difficulties of translation, the problem of trying to “translate war into peace,” the subject of poetry and politics, and his sometimes heated relationships with the poets he translates. He structured his talk by creating categories like “leverage” and “humor” as a way to organize his ideas, but the poems proved to be stronger than the frame. He is a good performer, as well. To my question about publishing and distribution he responded that his primary distributor is in California (SPD) and that most of his readers live outside of the Holy Land. One hopes that more Israelis and Palestinians read these poems in the near future; people may not die for what can be found in poems, as Williams noted, but they are dying, and poems might help start a dialogue on the level of the person, if not the state (or the lack of one).

Today (Saturday) I attended most of a meeting for Fat Ulu's Statehood Project. Fat Ulu is comprised of poets who include most of those in Tinfish 18.5: The Book (Ryan Oishi, Sage Takehiro, Tiare Picard) and Kimo Armitage. They started their non-profit over a year ago after doing a directed reading course on publication issues with me. Since that time, they've organized an event at a local jazz club and begun work on this project on the fraught issue of statehood. I arrived late (my daughter had been playing soccer this a.m.) and heard the end of a presentation by Ron Williams, a graduate student in history, who has been doing research on responses to annexation and statehood by Hawaiians. What he has found is that, contra many, including Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on the floor of the Senate in 2006, Hawaiians did not favor statehood. According to a short essay that he handed out, “`Onipa`a ka `Oia`i`o: The Truth is Steadfast,” “people in Hawai`i were also limited in their options regarding statehood in 1959 because the ballot presented only two choices: continuing as second-class citizens in the American system, or having all of the same rights as Americans in the United States. It is impossible to know what the results might have been if restoration of independence had been an alternative on the ballot.” There had also been a presentation by members of Kumu Kahua Theater downtown, who will take what is written by participants in the workshop and make it into a two hour theatrical production over the course of many months. It's an exciting and timely project, geared toward the 50th anniversary of Hawai`i statehood.

This week my English 273 students (Literature & Creative Writing) made collages and then performed them in class. I hope to have them relaxed by the time we get to “meaning” as they know it, and to realize how embodied poems are; the inaugural poem by Elizabeth Alexander did not help the cause, as it seemed so abstract to them (the ones who heard it). Her discussion with Stephen Colbert, however, was valuable. In response to his provocations (“aren't metaphors just lies?” was one) she carefully explained some of the features of poetry that we struggle to convey in the classroom. I finally met my Poetry & Politics seminar, small but enthusiastic, and set up working definitions of “poetry” and “politics” with them. I spoke to both classes about the way in which Rev. Joseph Lowery collaged important texts into his benediction at the inauguration on Tuesday, beginning from James Weldon Johnson's poem (often called “the Negro's national anthem”) and ending with a riff on Big Bill Broonzy. And oh the inauguration!

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK day

MLK Day and Words

CNN showed King's “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety this morning, a speech I sometimes show to my American literature and composition students, and the word that stuck out for me was surprising. “Curvaceous.” Yes, as in “the curvaceous slopes of California.” This time I heard the big words. By that I don't mean the important words necessarily, but the really big ones, like “nullification” and “interposition” and “prodigious” and “promissory”--the words that pack more than a couple of syllables. It reminds me that MLK has always been associated in my mind with words, and with the meanings of words.

I was in the car with my mother one day as a small child. I asked her (out of the blue of my memory this leaps) if there were any black people who were famous. She said yes, there's Martin Luther King, who goes to jail for his principles. What? I thought laws were just, though I didn't yet know that word either. How could you go to jail and be good (or famous, as I confused my terms all around)? So she told me about how some laws are unjust, that, by breaking them and suffering the consequences, you can get them changed. That is my first memory of Dr. King.

My parents listened each week to Meet the Press on a large wooden console radio in the living room. My mother always noted the way King used language. She liked big words, too.

One of King's speechwriters was on CNN this morning. He must have been a very young man in 1963; he still looks middle-aged. In his his left ear an Ed Bradley loop earring. He had noted Obama's use of the phrase “the fierce urgency of now” from King and thought, “that's one clever brother.”

I had an old record of King's speeches. The last one, as it was the last, was his “I have seen the mountain top” speech from Memphis the night before he was killed. Parts of that speech, when it has left the page and gone into preaching, occur in rhyme.

I wonder who will have the better poem tomorrow, Obama or Elizabeth Alexander.

Children pronounce the name, Barack Obama, as if it is a poem.

Obama, like King, is a strict constructionist of the American dream and its lexicon. He does not ask for a new definition of the word, whether it is “citizen” or “dream,” he asks for one more strict. To peel back the word to its first principle. WCW wrote of Marianne Moore that her words “do not smell"; these orators and poets also ask us to return to words that they scrub down. Bush was the smelly poet; time now for a cleaner one. Consider it a public service, like painting the walls of a teenage shelter.

That is where poets can help, in the return of words to meaning. The simplification of the language. Simplification is a not a simple word. But it sure beats “nullification,” the bad dream of these last eight years.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

RIP Epeli Hau`ofa

Deborah Meadows's Sonnets from GOODBYE TISSUES

Sonnets from the [Abu] Ghraib

I often require my creative writing students to write a Shakespearian sonnet. Hardly a one of them leaps joyfully to the task; one student, years ago, simply refused. His father, he said, was military, and the sonnet reminded the son of all the rules his father enforced. (Harold Bloom had nothing on this guy's Oedipal relationship with poetic tradition!). He was having none of Wordsworth's nuns, fretting not in their convent rooms. And he had a point. If the stanza is a room, then the sonnet can seem a chamber of horrors.

Deborah Meadows's new book from Shearsman Press, Goodbye Tissues, contains “Sonnets' Four Seasons,” a meditation on contemporary America, and especially on the Iraq war and the U.S. government's use of torture (which happens in chambers). As with any sonnet sequence worth its salt, this one is equally a meditation on the form itself: “array marked / more shutters and paralysis echo / toward parity, fourteen lines, more or less” (71). These lines conclude the first of 12 sonnets (after a verse preface that includes two quotations from Tom Raworth). Within this first chamber we find a growing lexicon of Iraq War-related words (“provisional,” “indictment,” “state”) and of literary terms (“realism,” “procedural text,” “lines”), as well as words that cross over the border between them (“blueprint,” “build,” “body”). The body of this text will likewise address the body politic, the bodies of prisoners (a.k.a. “detainees”). Here we also find the language of theoretical science (“pollen's Brownian descent”) to mark randomness. A procedure in poetry results random outputs; so an ideology that leads to violence erupts into chaos. This is a danger to poetry, as it is to governance, and Meadows intends to examine the danger under her microscope, even as she avoids the trap. The work has an ethical design that points past formalism and into a history that is also prophecy; the last lines of the final sequence promising “the sum of retaliation,” a blown-up bridge that is also “of self, brush the hyphen, its sectioned plane.”

Meadows's work is nothing if not difficult; I cannot claim to have these sonnets adequately in my sights. But I'm immediately drawn to them because they open out into a public politics. Words, too, are private and public: throughout the sequence, her sometimes hermetic lines effloresce into phrases like “evaporation of memory” (a reference to what one sees from the Capitol in D.C.); “engulf the war”; “intelligence it's called”; “troop deployment”; “fear”; “The many vanishings/ of the subject”; “General Electric”; “brave new world”; the “FCC”; and “Catholicism now fed on GOP.” There is even a brief autobiographical interlude in sonnet 11, which may allude to Meadows's move nearly two decades ago from western New York State to southern California. This opening up of the text to the poet's life seemed significant, as well, pointing to the poet's own stake in the language and politics of the poem, her relation to the nation whose rotting ethos it diagnoses.

What in poetic terms exists as a split between the machine of proceduralism and the resulting randomness of poetry is laid next to the abstract ideology of the nation that tortures and the chaotic retaliation that ensues. Sonnet 3 brings up the subject of torture:

the bed and pillows are
not had at the train station, electric
sensations abstracted to principles--
go sense the same eternal smell anytime.
An unethical practice to save lives?
Our vanishing point recession:
state house a tiny dot. (73)

What works in poetry's chamber cannot work in the torture chamber, where abstract thinking sets up conditions of pain without the “saving.” The Brownian descent of pollen is one thing, but the state house reduced to a dot is quite another. “The secretary assigned a machine / precarious sentences,” she writes in the 7th sonnet. The secretary might be Donald Rumsfeld; he is surely not Jackson McLow, or Jacques Roubaud, to whom one of the sonnets is dedicated. The poet is “fully aware of coercion” in her own work, which is often procedural, but the coercion that comes with shock and awe, or what Naomi Klein calls “the shock doctrine,” at once economic and military, that renders us citizens helpless: “Nation, our item today during these / shells beyond infantile sensation shall not” (8, 78).

Meadows calls a spade a spade, attacking the president (Bush) and his speech writer for “a prompting 'On evil,' a moral /term [that] helped the president gain favor” (just the other night in his farewell speech, President Bush told us that there is good and evil—and nothing, apparently, in the ceasura between). But when she moves to “The many vanishings / of the subject” (80) she is writing not simply of those who have died because of the president's policies, but also to those tortured, and to the very notion of what makes us subjects, rather than objects, in the first place. To Bush's “philosophy” she responds that “Not all hypotheses are utopian / as well as logical” (81). Our state is “General Electric,” but there is little light. Instead, even “Sonnets / now pose” and everything is for sale.

If “our medium is language not belief,” then by the end of her sequence Meadows is calling for a language that is at least honest, ethical, not mechanized (like form, like tortured) but freed into meaning (like pollen, like text). While the methods of poetry and governance may differ, their goals need to be joined in a social and linguistic contract that unevaporates memory, offers us non-consumable words such as those we find in poems like these.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Anthologizing TheBus

(Please make the photos larger with your mouse. I still haven't figure out how to put these photos in the places I actually want them . . . )

My former and current students, Ryan Oishi, Aiko Yamashiro, and Gizelle Gajelonia came over this afternoon to talk about Ryan's and Aiko's anthology of writing about TheBus. Ryan pulled out a mock-up of the proposed anthology of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry, organized to resemble a fold-up route map and schedule (with a large map of Oahu on the front, then poems in the place of route schedules as you open the “map”). They are hoping to publish the anthology and place it among route maps in public places for people to pick up and read as they ride TheBus. The poetry map is interactive, as well, as there is also a place to write your own poem, cut it off the map, and send it to the editors.

Their anthology has many layers—historical, ethnic, generic. In literary historical terms, it begins with Eric Chock's locally famous poem, “Tutu on da Curb,” about an old woman at a bus stop who ends up breathing the air (“fut”) of “progress” as it comes out of the bus's exhaust pipe. Also from the era of the 70s are pieces by Rodney Morales, and a photograph by Ed Greevy of bus drivers protesting. And then they move toward the present, where we find poems by Gizelle and Ryan and a student at McKinley High School, as well as journalism by Mike Leidemann (the writers have not yet been asked for permission to print, so the project is still in the planning stages). They present poems about immigrants who have succeeded (like Puakea Nogelmeier) and those who are not so sure they will.

The anthology will also have bus "ads" that are relevant to local issues, if not local products. One (at the top left) features Lilikala Kame`eleihiwa, Hawaiian historian and sovereignty activist.

There is much to praise in such an anthology as a way to link communities: bus riders and poets, writers and schedulers, the idealists and the pragmatists. It cuts across lines of ethnicity and class in wonderful ways. I only hope that the purpose of the project gets better expressed on the map. I can imagine a rider thinking she has acquired a route map and schedule getting angry at getting some poems and no times to be at her stop!

The poet/editors are still considering whether to sell or give away their product, and how to get it into circulation among bus riders. The anthology certainly will provide a good reminder to riders that their rides are not mundane, but full of promise; they need only look around and overhear to get the gist of life as it is lived on this island.

Buddy Bess, of Bess Press, once told me and others that he'd figured out how to get his books into the ABC stores in Waikiki, where they would have a larger clientele than the usual bookstore crowd. He would make "books" that look like guides—guides to fish, or food, or language—and he would laminate them. It seems to me that Ryan, Aiko and Gizelle (who came because her honors thesis will be on TheBus), have found a way to do the guerrilla version of this move into a larger public. They won't just publish something about TheBus for students of writing; they will also provide access to it for bus riders themselves. A really promising act of poetry activism—now they just need the money to proceed.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Poetry as Supplemental Text (or how poetry gets xeroxed for class use)


“In the 1980s and 1990s, as studies of the American novel became more historical, and as 'documentary' texts became the object of critical scholarship, the tendency to exclude poetry from American literature became only more pronounced. I account for this predilection by tracing the social form of poetry in the academy. But it is precisely poetry's social form that makes it important for cultural history . . . “ (19)

Joseph Harrington wrote these sentences, which you can find in his 2002 book, Poetry and the Public: The Social Form of Modern U.S. Poetics ; I am re-reading it in 2009, as I prepare for another semester of teaching. I am also reading through undergraduate and graduate course descriptions to get a sense of the departmental culture. While the culture of the UH English department is in some ways very different from that of other departments in other locations, at least in matters curricular (we are heavy on cultural studies, what used to be called “multicultural” writing, and on Hawai`i literatures), I assume that in other ways we are fairly typical. And so I come to realize that what Harrington claims for the 1980s and 1990s remains true for the 2000s. We are not bereft of courses in “poetry,” especially in creative writing; there are courses in Emily Dickinson, poetry as a genre, and in contemporary poetry and politics. What strikes me, however, is that courses labeled “literature,” rather than “poetry,” are almost exclusively given over to fiction, and sometimes to drama. Even if that statement is unfair, as it is to some extent, it is more than fair when it comes to demanding of students that they purchase books of poetry. Time and again, as I glance at course descriptions, I see—if I see poetry at all—allusions to a “course reader” or to “xeroxes” or to “on-line materials.” This is true even in many creative writing classes, where precious little reading goes on. Though our newish course 273, Creative Writing and Literature, is a welcome addition to the curriculum, because it emphasizes the necessary engagement between reading and writing, thinking about writing and doing it.

Far be it from me to criticize the distribution of poetry in any form, or to dismiss on-line resources, which are quickly becoming central to my own teaching praxis. But as the publisher of a small poetry press, I wonder why the support for poetry tends to be so ephemeral, so cheap. The poetry market, insofar as there is one, is hardly a beacon of successful capitalism, if such exists any more. Nor do we poets and readers want it to be so. But poetry does require resources to continue to appear in print. And those resources come in large part from the sales of books of poems, books whose authors have attempted a kind of coherence not to be found in a single poem, or even a small sheaf of them. (This is my argument against "shuffle play" on the ipod, too.) Xeroxes do not have the aesthetic force to bring more visually oriented students into poetry; unless the poet intends to present her work as xerox, she generally wishes to find her work in a visually stimulating package. A book, in other words. A book whose graphic designer worked to respond to the text, draw out its instigations.

Sometimes I write emails to colleagues to suggest works of poetry for them to include in their courses, and often they respond positively, saying that they don't read poetry and don't know where to begin to do so. Or they say they are “scared” of poetry, or simply more comfortable with the novel. As someone who is able to read a novel on Tuesday and forget the plot by Wednesday, then play charades with her classes on Thursday to elicit the plot from a student who reads better she does, I understand this sentiment in reverse. When I teach “literature” courses, I load them up with a lot of poetry, and I teach books of it, in large part because it's in my comfort zone. But I can't imagine teaching a survey of American literature without at least one book in each genre, and increasingly in mixed genres. Likewise, courses in literary studies per se, strike me as necessary places in which to include books of poems.

As my department moves into a greater emphasis on indigenous Pacific literature, I expect that poetry will enter the curriculum more fully. It simply must, when Hawaiian orature (as just one example) is rooted in chant, not in prose fiction. To understand issues of aesthetics, history, language in contemporary Hawai`i, it's necessary to read the poetry, whether published by Bamboo Ridge, `oiwi, Kahuaomanoa Press, Tinfish or other publishers. To measure the sometimes fraught conversations between groups of poets as they are often--too often--marked (Hawaiian, Asian, academic, and so on), we need to read a variety of poets. But I would argue that poetry needs to be read in quantity, as well as quality. The xeroxed poem offers itself up as an artifact. The poetry book can be something else indeed.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Jill Yamasawa's _Aftermath_

Jill Yamasawa's Aftermath (Kahuaomanoa Press, forthcoming 2009)

In preparing to teach a course in poetry & politics this Spring (beginning in a week!), I've been reading books about public uses of poetry (Joan Shelley Rubin's Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America) and about the suppression of leftist poetry (John Lowney's History, Memory, and the Literary Left and Cary Nelson's revolutionary memory). Rubin's book explains the significance not only of historical memory but also the early 20th century practice of memorizing and performing verse in school. This reading helps me better understand my father's many recitations of “Snowbound” as well as my mother's obsession with “Invictus." According to Rubin, poetry played a crucial role in creating a public vocabulary with which to bind friendships and discuss ethical issues. But it's Lowney who helps me get where I want to go in my thoughts on Jill Yamasawa's forthcoming book, Aftermath, which is the biography of a place, McKinley High School, in Honolulu. Like so many places in Hawai`i, McKinley High School is only the most recent building, name, ideological construction for what have been other names, other uses, other cultural values. While Lowney notes that “the problem of memory is, of course, fundamental to modernity and constitutive of literary modernism” (4), poets in Hawai`i know this as a problem closer to home. At home. The problem of memory is inscribed in the names used to mark places in Hawai`i. To the winner go the names. What is now called Ford Island (at Pearl Harbor) was Moku `ume `ume, Chinaman's Hat was Mokoli`i, Diamond Head was Leahi, and so on. (In recent years, however, these names are often used in tandem, or as political and cultural choices.) McKinley High School was built in Kewalo. Yamasawa quotes the “Dictionary of Hawaiian Localities” from 1883:

A fishpond and surrounding land
on the plains below King Street,
and beyond Koula.

Kewalo contained a spring called “Drowning waters,” after a spring used by priests for human sacrifice. As we find out some pages later, Kakaako / Kewalo “was a place of recreation” where Kamehameha had a residence, “along with his family, and personal kahuna.” That the militarization of Hawai`i, the thirst of the military for young soldiers from local high schools, is linked to this is clear in Yamasawa's sequence, although the sacrifices have a very different meaning or provenance. And therein lies much of her tale. It is a story of empires (McKinley's and Bush's, by way of the Vietnam War), as much as a story of the young people who participate in it, either as its victims or perpetrators, often as both (children of immigrants from colonized places who become soldiers in the American army). It is a tale of institutions attempting to organize multiple pasts into one, and it is equally the tale of challenges to those institutions.

Yamasawa builds her project on an axis. On the synchronic line is the study of mathematics; Yamasawa's narrator, Shirley, is a math teacher at McKinley High School, where she works with special ed students. Math, as we know (even if we sometimes suspect otherwise) makes sense, provides an abstract logical view of the world. The other, diachronic, line represents history. This is where logic and sense threaten at every turn to collapse, whether because a student has no family to record on his family tree project, or because McKinley High School itself is a colonial implant on the `aina. While the sections of her book are titled with reassuring words like “slope,” “variables,” “equations,” and where even “inequalities” takes on a neutral cast, what falls into these categories is less easily organized. While Shirley can teach math, it is clear that most of what is to be learned (via Shirley) is about Hawai`i's social and economic inequalities, its fraught linguistic history, its various amnesias (including those of the present about the present). There are moments in the text where these axes come together violently, as in “A Long Walk of Thresholds”:

There's an Original Sin
that taints our country. The radicals wrote
men and women are created equal.

The historical radicals—before McKinley—set down an ideal line that could not bear the press of American history.

Words, too, exist on this axis. Take the name “Pele,” as one example. In her poem, “Madame Pele,” Yamasawa offers up the many meanings of the words “Madame” and “Pele,” including the Brazilian soccer player, Pele. In Hawai`i we know Pele as the volcano goddess, a spiritual life force. But the astounding turn in Yamasawa's poem comes here:

I mean the bomber so named before its presentation
to the Air Force by McKinley High School students after
a successful bond drive to cover the cost.

This would be during the Second World War, Pele's name appropriated by the military for a very different kind of firepower. Yamasawa draws attention to other words, as well, from “Homeland Security,” “Mission Accomplished,” and many others. She uses several forms of English, standard, non-standard (including Pidgin and the immigrants' accented English), as well as Hawaiian words that bring with them large cultural concepts. Yet one among the many ironies about McKinley High School was its status as a non-standard English school, meaning its students spoke Pidgin, not what some still refer to as "proper English." The split between standard and non-standard schools in Hawai`i lasted many decades. See Lisa Linn Kanae's Sista Tongue for a personal/political history of Pidgin.

Jill Yamasawa's documentary poetry reflects the poet/teacher's capacity to empathize with her students (if you know Jill, she's hard to separate from Shirley), caught up in domestic dramas that are also national in scope. Nowhere in the book are we permitted to forget the Iraq War or the military recruiters settled just off-campus. Empathy is an ethical act; the reader is not permitted ever to forget that the words she uses for place or politics are pre-selected for her. Yamasawa has performed the discipline of research, peeled back the layers of history and language, re-membered for us the meaning of the many sites that are McKinley High School, as well as the students shaped by it.

Yamasawa's book will be published later this Spring. In the meantime, sections are available in Tinfish 18.5: The Book.