Garrett Hongo: A Tribute

At a panel at AWP in 2019, former students of Garrett Hongo shared their memories of his teaching. We’ve now collected these appreciations, along with a brand new poem from Hongo and a fantastic interview that Mark Jarman conducted in December 2019.

Mark Jarman interviews Garrett Hongo

“When I was a child, my grandfather always said, ‘Get good education. Learn speak good English. You tell my story.’ And I’d always thought my purpose was to execute that injunction—to learn eloquence and practice it in order to redeem his life. But, unconsciously, instinctively, over many years, it became my ambition to build a singing school, to use a phrase from Yeats. To make it free and afford aspirants the opportunity to learn the art of writing. Elder poets constantly warned me against it—that it would ruin my poetry, steal time away from writing, alter my brain chemistry and make me a mediocre artist. Perhaps so. But I stuck with it, myself not knowing the reason.”


Melancholic yesterday, watching slate-grey clouds

showering down while I lay in a cozy, one-man cabana.
inhabited by fine striations of grief, lamenting a loss.

I thought of writing to the soul of Nazim Hikmet,
saying loving a woman was like writing a book—
that you must do it every day and not forget 

it is love’s body on which you write a page of kisses . . .”