“Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind.”[i]
A little over ninety years ago, in the fall of 1929, the U.S stock market crashed. The world at the time was far less interconnected than it is now, but ties of mutual dependence were already so tight that, like a string of pearls sliding down a drain, once one country went over the edge, the rest were doomed to follow. Over the next ten years, the nations of the world tried every remedy they could think of—raising tariffs on imported goods, creating welfare states, nationalizing industries, putting fascist dictators into power. None of it helped. The Great Depression lingered on. Why? Because the Great Depression was a global crisis—perhaps the first in human history—and the solutions put forward were, one and all, national solutions.
I’m taking a writing class with Gotham Writers’ Workshop right now, and one of the assignments was to create an imaginary bio for yourself. It was no holds barred, so I could have imagined myself as a legendary world traveller, universally admired academic, or much loved novelist and poet–all of which makes what I did end up writing somewhat puzzling:
I get my news about the U.S. rather slowly. For example, I only just learned of the snowstorm in the Northeast. Much as I would like to gloat and taunt my NYC-dwelling friends about the fact that it never snows here in Chengdu, the reality of the situation is this: I am drinking my coffee hot, the down comforters are on the beds, I am currently wearing two wool sweaters, and although I have not yet put on any thermal underwear, that moment is approaching rapidly. All of this can mean but one thing–winter has arrived–and there is no emoji capable of accurately depicting my feelings on the subject. Continue reading
I suppose this is my personal homage to Langston Hughes’s great poem, “Let America be America Again,” about which I’ve written here before. Perhaps it’s also my personal update to that poem, my own “creative misprision”–to borrow Harold Bloom’s term–through which I’m trying to say where I think we are and where I hope we’re going. Continue reading
One of the blessings of being a parent is that you get to see your favorite childhood films again. In my life, that has most recently meant seeing Mary Poppins many times over. I’ve enjoyed it because it turns out that it’s also a great film for grown-ups. In fact, it has given me the perfect name for a logical fallacy that’s been bothering me for some time. Continue reading
There is a tradition among English-language translators of Chinese poetry to translate all Chinese poems as unrhymed free-verse. This tradition goes back at least as far as Ezra Pound–whose “translations” bear little resemblance to their originals–and is very much alive and kicking. So much so that I am borrowing the historian, Nathan Sivin’s, term–“The Great Taboo,”–to describe it.
This poem, which first appeared in the collection of poems I published here last year, was recently published in the Summer 2018 issue of Tokens. Since Tokens is not available online (and has a rather limited circulation!), I thought I’d post it here. Continue reading
I saw a man with a beard on the subway today. You don’t often see beards like that. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce that The Columbia Review has published my essay “Zora Neale Hurston on Being Black in America, Ninety Years Later” on their website (the title has been changed to the one you see in the title of this post). If you have a chance click over there and give them a visit. Thanks!
October 22nd of this year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith and the most recent of God’s Messengers to humanity–whose number includes Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, and an unknown number of other Messengers whose names have been lost. Continue reading