friday feast: jazz chops

“You do not sew with a fork, and I see no reason why you should eat with knitting needles.” ~ Miss Piggy

Chop chop!

I’m serving up something cool!

The other day, I was scouting around for some Asian American poetry and ran across this gem. It made me realize I’ve been taking chopsticks for granted all my life. I guess that can happen, if using them is like blinking your eyes or breathing, and you can’t even remember when you first picked them up!

Lawson Inada, an internment camp detainee in WWII, infuses his poetry with elements of jazz (which I love). Music sustained him through that painful experience, and jazz, in particular, was the common language in the Black and Chicano communities he was a part of after the war.

In “Inada and Jazz,” Julianne Chang says, “his jazz poetics works to redress the pain of racial trauma by enacting an alternative to the dominant time of the nation. His jazz poetics of repetition and improvisation enable re-stagings and re-workings of a troubled past, while his poetics of syncopation enact the rhythm and status of the racially marginalized subject as one outside standard national historic time.”

Today Inada is considered by many to be the father of Asian American literature — he was the first Asian American to publish poems with a major NYC publisher, and is currently Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

So pick up your sticks and savor Inada’s jazzy take on a 3,000-year-old tradition.


~ from Drawing the Line (Coffee House Press, 1997)
by Lawson Inada

When you think about it,
eatin’ with sticks
is the natural thing to do;

that is, without getting all
sociological about it,
it makes logical sense

to handle your food
with these smooth extensions
of your fleshy fingers —

that way, the hot
is truly cool,
bit by bit making its way

south to your mouth
as you choose
what you chews,

chowing down on, say,
succulent shoots of bamboo
with sticks of bamboo

as you come full circle
in the ecological 
sense of things

(Read the rest here.)

Community bowls of poetry available today at Becky’s Book Reviews!


8 thoughts on “friday feast: jazz chops

  1. Great post. I’ll add to this one of my favorites by Janet Wong. This is from A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems.
    Albert J. Bell
    Forty years of friendship
    with my grandfather,
    and still Uncle Al cannot eat
    with chopsticks.
    Forty years of friendship
    with Uncle Al,
    and still my grandfather forgets
    to offer him a fork.


  2. I always look forward to your Friday posts. I enjoyed this poem, and your commentary. Thanks…


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