The Hermit Poet

July 17, 2005

After Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 3:21 am

It is strange to say that I am almost wordless and yet overflowing with things to say. This retreat has been more than I can possibly explain except in sheer language of poetry. How we came together, not just as a community of writers, but as friends — as a family.

I am struck by our diversity but even more moved by our intersections. I am filled with a sense of love and loss now, even this morning typing this as the hour hand moves closer to our last meal. It is 7:11 AM in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lawson Inada is now at the airport, preparing to fly home. We are stirring from beds, dressing and packing, gathering our last thoughts and words together before breakfast in the cafeteria then a meeting on the lawns to return keys and passcards.

How is it that in one brief week I have fallen in love with this band of fellow poets? How is it that despite so many places where we might have divided, we instead came together and found communion? We sorrowed. We laughed. We wept. I think in these last few days we have found a home — a home we were all looking for. I know this to be true for me.

And the writing — every workshop and every evening I was overwhelmed by beauty — overtaken by the tremendous talent that has been hidden from my view. I never knew Asian American poetry was so vibrant, so powerful, so incredibly and indelibly written on my soul and across this nation. I never knew how I fit in.

What to say about faculty who sings and laughs with us at tables? What to say about staff and university support that bends over backward to ensure our welcome and comfort? What to say about close warmth I have felt everywhere and everyday? And far into the evenings, when we gathered in Sarah and Joseph’s room to sing and listen to songs both America’s and our own.

Is there any doubt in my mind that Asian American poetry is alive and well? None left — only certainty that these voices will be heard. That the bookshelves will sink into the ground for the weight of all these passions and stories. I am forever changed by this place and my friends, my family, my comrades in this journey that is also a home.

Thank you. Thank you everyone.

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