Dear Hoa

Thanks for your recent collection, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure. It really opened up for me ways of positioning poetic composition and language around the complex social dynamic of “asking.” The way you enlarge the focus of the interrogative by framing it as genealogical and personal is powerful. As Charles Olson said (somewhere), “the subjective as objective requires correct processing.”1 The frame of “asking” in this book is manifestly “soulful” (I hesitate to say spiritual, but close); I feel thrown back into R. D. Laing’s The Politics of the Family, an eye-opener I taught from many years ago. I also triangulated this poetry with Phyllis Webb’s intricate reflections in her poem “A Question of Questions” as a way of thinking about the role of desire behind the questing/questioning in these poems. You make a “poetry of asking” intriguingly multi-faceted (not complicated, though). It could be theoretically simplistic and I appreciate that you don’t do that. I feel energized by this poetic biotext and more aware of the realm of “hungry ghosts” that inhabit all our bloodlines.

Best, Fred


(Music at the Heart of Thinking 172)

extract the breeze from her river       mistake the answer for the question
refinement of the bruised knee          Dear Mother may I                    step away

into the bruised words               you’ll have more than you asked for                    what

did you forget          remember the future  It’ll show up in the tea leaves

ask the waitress to leave it       ask her when when she’s off                  ask her

tenderly         don’t misunderstand the suddenness equal to hello

we’s tricked into this future tense                       a knee job         a little fishy

the agent of endurement interrogates the sentence                   misspells the word “reckon”

the mistake is in wanting the answers          doesn’t the family equal desire

do you want to see her face                    are you asking for the moon

the 15th day of the seventh moon                souls wander                    another American war

just happens                     ask around about it    the answers are untranslatable

until a white soldier wanders by kapow                                   and you still don’t know how

the herbicides of memory are lost and gone forever                            no cookie no phở

it is what it is but don’t touch my dragon                       my bike is what I hold on to

the speed is for balance                  the scar a strawberry                            the kickstand

a “bundled trick” of hybridity                  the shaved head must be love                          the hello
of her arms                  Dear Mother may I                         hold up your arms
now sing the answers                       hum a little trick                                    smell the mums

with clarity               a thousand times you’re lost                  hold out your arms

a thousand times                           I’ll meet you

Editor’s Note

1 As Wah reveals elsewhere, the phrase is from “Charles Olson’s seminar on Contemporary Poetry at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1964,”where it “was chalked on the blackboard.” See Fred Wah, “Cohen’s Noos,” Canadian Poetry, no. 33, Fall-Winter 1993,

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