Another review of “The New and Selected Yuri”

A review by poet Ravi Chandra’s of my latest book, “The New and Selected Yuri: Writing From Peeling Till Now,” (Ishmael Reed Publishing Co., 2011.)

I met Yuri Kageyama at an event honoring Ishmael Reed at LitQuake. Yuri performed her piece “Little YELLOW Slut”, a powerful spoken word piece that punctuates stereotypes of Asian American women with the judgmental projection “Little YELLOW SluT.”

I was immediately taken by this piece, and was proud to soon be carrying Kageyama’s latest collection of work, which she generously gifted me in exchange for my modest first book, “a fox peeks out: poems.”

I was very impressed by Kageyama’s poetry and prose, which are both a tender and raw depiction of her Asian American sexuality and political mindset.

Some of the poems are in what’s now called the “wordfist” tradition, like “BIG WHITE BITCH,” taking aim at and taking down the oppressive forces of racism and sexism with a uniquely feminine yet tough-spoken mindset.

These are angry and direct. Some might find them shocking, but I found them vivid and real.

Others are a lament _ of childhood abuse by her rocket scientist father and of sitting next to him as he lay dying.

There are also many prose pieces. One discusses Japanese concepts such as Kakijun, Enryo and Iki. Another is a perhaps semi-autobiographical look back at 1970’s political-poetic movements in San Francisco.

Another is a dialogue between her and a younger Asian American woman living in Japan and struggling for relationship and power _ possibly a younger version of herself.

This is an emininently readable and enjoyable collection.

I found myself in turns challenged and entertained by the sheer soul-force of the person who comes shining through these words. Close to the heart, close to the soul, deeply human and remarkable. Recommended.

^___< And here is my review, in turn, of Chandra’s book:

A lot of poetry, probably including much of my own, is destructive, addressing inner turmoils to give them a form of expression as literature than other equally tempting but less acceptable, perhaps even criminal, outlets.
Such is the madness of the world around us, the abuse that we take and the psychosis we battle by the day.
Ravi Chandra’s poetry is the voice of calm, the antidote of therapy, the ointment of peace.
Perhaps it is because he is a medical doctor and psychiatrist that he seeks to heal not only internal wounds but almost the entire world around us with his debut poetry book “a fox peeks out _ poems.” (San Francisco: Pacific Heart Books, 2011)
He juxtaposes the technology of the Internet with the tradition of Asian religions in the same poetic breath that is our American experience.
Other types of slam poetry may be identified with street violence and the defiance of oppression.
Chandra’s slam poetry is more like the chamomile tea you sip before bedtime.
His works read almost like a prayer, asking God to keep us safe through another day:
“Heart like earth _ /Mind like sky./ No walls, no weapons, no war/”
The power to soothe and unify through the word involves a risky balance to keep between artistry and platitude.
Chandra pulls it off with the intelligence of a scholar, the insight of a master and, most important, the benevolence of a saint.
“Mountains do get built from earthquakes,/ great masses of earth pushing into each other,/ Pushing the ground up,” he writes in “subprime tsunamis.”
“Greed must be contained by wisdom./ Compassion must be the greatest power./ Only so, can the waters purify./ Only so, can earthquakes/ give ascent,/ instead of annihilation.”

Little YELLOW Slut

Some people, when I ask them to sing along to my poem, don’t want to utter the dreaded words: “Little YELLOW Slut.” Good people don’t want to repeat derogatory phrases. But it’s OK. This is a Poem: saying it will make discrimination, racists and sexists, all evil thoughts go away _ like “oharai” by the shaman.

2011 Barbary Coast Award literary event in San Francisco

(photos by Annette Dorfman)

I was in San Francisco Oct. 12, 2011 for the 2011 Barbary Coast Award given to my mentor and publisher and great poet, novelist and teacher Ishmael Reed. Reed is the author of at least 27 books, including Mumbo Jumbo, The Last Days of Louisiana Red and Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down. He is also a publisher (as I well know), television producer, songwriter, pianist and radio and television commentator. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley, for 30 years.
I just finished his latest novel “Juice!” which highlights his talent as a visual artist/cartoonist as well. The book is not only a deliciously hilarious read, offering insightful satire on U.S. race relations and celebrity scandals, it is also a profound testament, even tribute, to what could now be a passing glory era of the mainstream media _ in all its grandeur, ludicrousness, power and human potential.

More from the ceremony below: Photos and video clips of performances, including my reading with music.

Congratulations to Ishmael Reed

(video by Evan Karp)
Ishmael Reed, who published my latest book “The New and Selected Yuri: Writing From Peeling Till Now,” received the Barbary Coast Award WED Oct. 12, 2011, at a gala ceremony at Z Space in San Francisco, a program packed with poets, musicians and performers, includng even me, who read “Litte YELLOW Slut” with the Broun Fellinis _ from left to right Kirk Peterson (bass), Kevin Carnas (drums), David Boyce (saxophone) _ Makoto Horiuchi (guitar), Ashwut Rodriguez (guitar) and the great Ishmael Reed (piano).

MUSICAL POETS: Al Young sings, presents award to Ishmael Reed

David Boyce of the Broun Fellinis, poet Tennessee Reed and Carla Blank, choreographer, performance artist and my editor at The Barbary Coast Award ceremony for poet, novelist and professor Ishmael Reed Oct. 12, 2011, in San Francisco.
Photos by Annette Dorfman.

More photos by Annette Dorfman at Litquake:

Stun-gun poetics: A review of my new book

“Kageyama’s images, scoured, purged of ornamentation, can have the effect of a stun gun …. The focus in Kageyama’s work is less on beauty, which can be delusional, than on truth. Serious literature, we realize, does not exist to comfort and mollify us, but to unnerve and agitate.”
Stephen Mansfield in a review of “The New and Selected Yuri _ Writing From Peeling Till Now” in The Japan Times, Aug. 14, 2011.

Ishmael Reed: the fighter and the writer

Congratulations to Ishmael Reed receiving Litquake’s Barbary Coast Award at this gala ceremony at Z Space in San Francisco’s Project Artaud WED Oct. 12, 2011.
I read “Little YELLOW Slut” with the house band The Broun Fellinis.

A mention in the Cornell Alumni Magazine

My book “The New and Selected Yuri _ Writing From Peeling Till Now” in the Cornell Alumni Magazine:
“In her collection of new and selected poems, Kageyama debunks cultural stereotypes and explores how racism and sexism scar people.”

Reading at a San Francisco book store

Reading at a San Francisco book store TUE Aug. 16, 2011 with (from left to right) Yoshiaki Tago (filmmaker), Hiroyuki Shido (bass), Eric Kamau Gravatt (drums), Makoto Horiuchi (guitar), Yuri Kageyama (poet) and Isaku Kageyama (percussion, taiko).
Photos by Annette Dorfman.
The best thing about the reading was that Milton Murayama, author of “All I Asking For Is My Body,” whom I had not seen in years, came with his wife Dawn because he saw it in The San Francisco Chronicle.
He told me the day he would stop writing is the day he dies.
So much like Milton _ still the same after all these years.
He had that same twinkle in his eye when he said those words like a promise.
Death can’t be all bad if we can keep writing till the day we die.