“When I was twenty, I decided to dedicate myself to the study of art and literature. It would be as if I were an apprentice in some religious practice,” writes award-winning poet and scholar Garrett Hongo in “The Mirror Diary,” the title essay of this collection in which he tracks the emergence of his poetic voice through a secret diary he kept as a child filled with invented stories and memories about his ancestors. The essay sets the backdrop for this installment of the Poets on Poetry series published by the University of Michigan Press, which includes personal and craft essays such as “In the Bamboo Grove: Some Notes on the Poetic Line,” “The Activity of the Poet,” and “Homage to Lost Worlds: Where I Write, Why I Write There.” Hongo considers the multitude of perspectives and approaches to writing that he has inherited as he writes about his literary antecedents, including the poets of China’s T’ang Dynasty, American poets Charles Olson and Walt Whitman, and his contemporaries David Mura and Edward Hirsch. Hongo’s essays remind poets and readers of poetry to consider their own histories and draw inspiration from the wealth of literary traditions in the world when approaching the page.
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