Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tinfish Retro Chapbook #4, by Kenny Tanemura


In Kenny Tanemura's rendering of him, Mao is hardly an all-powerful leader, or icon. Instead, he walks down the street, encounters the poet in his kitchen, offers a friend romantic advice, thinks about Filipino literature, suffers from indigestion. He is muse to a poet who thinks about many of the same things, who reports on conversations with Mao as if they were as ordinary as pears. An assemblage more than an historical figure, his figure shadows everything that happens in this collection. Tanemura writes with a deft wit, in whimsical but pointed verse.

from "Requiem for Mao":

Mao walked by me on North Street,
the sleeve of his shirt brushed against mine.
While I was working at the computer,
Mao roller-skated around my kitchen,

knocked on the wall with his knuckle.
He let me figure it out slowly:
why he wanted a homeland
and a mother tongue to keep

his adolescence in a perpetual
state of calculation. But Mao knows
that the checkbook on his desk,
and the honeysuckle on the side-street

around the corner from my place
are more than a reflection. The basket
on the tabletop and the anemones
are on the same plane, winners and losers

both play with a racket.

Former member of the Junior Young Buddhist Association and the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple, 2.5 generation Japanese American, ex-Obon Festival volunteer, Dharma School educated, West Coast writer. Tanemura is a graduate of the MFA program at Purdue University. His poems have appeared in Volt, The Sonora Review, Xconnect, XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics, and elsewhere.

You can purchase this chapbook for $3 at; there's still time to order all 12 for $36. Designed, like all of the Retro chaps, by Eric Butler.

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