Intern Update

Intern Update: Aaron Sayama

Intern Aaron Sayama (center) at the Library of Congress with summer interns Liz Pon (left) and Josie Suh (right).

I have had an incredible summer here in Washington, D.C., interning with the Asian Pacific American Program. This summer I have been the catch-all intern, working on many different projects and blogging all about different  events I attended, such as the Guam Liberation Day Celebration and our visit to The Library of Congress. I also penned several blog posts for This Month in History: two important Supreme Court cases, Gordon Hirabayashi’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Patsy T. Mink Opportunity in Education Act.

This summer I also spent a significant amount of time working on an independent research project examining the link between social media and literary engagement. I focused on different ways to approach Asian American poetry online. For my final blog post, I am going to elaborate on one of my favorite poems: “Toasts in the Grove of Proposals” by Cathy Park Hong.

This poem comes from Hong’s 2007 book, Dance Dance Revolution. Before I talk a little about the poem, take a look and even listen to the author read it herself.

Toasts in the Grove of Proposals
Cathy Park Hong

Lo, brandied man en rabbinical cape
dab rosy musk en goy’s gossamy nape,
y brassy Brahmin papoosed in sari’s saffron sheet
swoon bine faire Waspian en ‘im wingtip feet,
les’ toast to bountiful gene pool, p
to intramarry couple breedim beige population!

Lo, union o husky Ontarian y teacup size Tibetan,
wreath en honeysuckle y dew-studded bracken,
lo, union o Cameroon groom kissim ‘e gallic Gamine’s cheek
en miscengnatin’ amour dim seek to reek
les’ toast to bountiful gene pool,
to intramarry couple breedim beige population!

Clap away, Greek chorus o gay sashayim crowd,
clap away, chatty flackmen y pre-nup hackmen,
bine fort, ruby-lined pachyderms who trundle here proud,
bine fort, madders who nag fo proposal enactment,
les’ toast to bountiful gene pool,
to intramarry couple breedim beige population!

To me, the writing here is creative and demonstrates Hong’s cleverness. Though, I hesitate to introduce this poem to a group of students because of its linguistic difficulty, I think the dialect has an interesting and readable enough meter and rhythm as to make it comprehensible, especially for students interested in hip hop or spoken word.

More importantly, I think the dialect Hong has created makes a political statement. It would have been one thing for Hong to simply write about interracial relationships. However, she employs its consequences through fluidity of language and culture, and by creating a distinct, creolized space. The dialect draws on English, French, Spanish, Latin, and “an amalgamation of over 300” languages, according to Hong, reflecting the increasingly enmeshed global culture. Hong’s book, Dance Dance Revolution, draws on global conflict to make extreme political statements, whereas the poem here makes it more subtly, as if to suggest that the logical end of globalization is the miscegenation of relationships.

Working with incredibly talented staff and my fellow interns this summer has only furthered my interest in Asian American Studies, literature, and public education. I look forward to following APAP as it continues to shape the dialogue about APAs on a national level.

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