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Thinking Its PresenceForm, Race, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Asian American Poetry$
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Dorothy J. Wang

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804783651

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804783651.001.0001

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Undercover Asian

Undercover Asian

John Yau and the Politics of Ethnic Identification and Self-Identification

(p.162) Five Undercover Asian
Thinking Its Presence

Dorothy J. Wang

Stanford University Press

This chapter begins with analysis of the critical controversy that erupted when poet John Yau criticized Eliot Weinberger’s anthology, American Poetry Since 1950: Innovators and Outsiders for its paucity of poets of color (only Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka were represented in the book). Weinberger charged Yau with only playing the ’race card’ when it was expedient and profitable. Contra Weinberger, this chapter shows that, far from shying away from the topic of race and identity, Yau has dealt with these concerns throughout his career in more oblique, often nonthematic, means. Because critics such as Weinberger tend to look only for thematic manifestations of ’Asianness,’ they have missed Yau’s more subtle, non-content-based grappling with issues of racial identity, including racial self-hatred, and his critiques of racist representations and discourses.

Keywords:   John Yau, ethnicity, identity, self-identification, Eliot Weinberger, American poetry, poetry

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