Thank You Dorothy Wang

YES—language is always contextual. And YES—people, too, are always contextual. And YES YES— when people use language, it’s worth our time, energy, and love to consider the relationship between these contexts. Thank you Dorothy Wang for showing us what this can look like. What responsible reading (and writing about reading [and writing]) can look like. Thank you for asking us to read for race while demanding that we not essentialize it.

Among other things, I really liked what you said about John Yau’s GC XIX

“To read this poem in the light of the social context of the poet is not to reduce the poem to a flat, homogenous, or univocal “identity”-based reading or dreary social critique but to demonstrate how layered, multiple, and heterogenous the voices and connotations are in this poem,” (Thinking Its Presence, 238).

Here I thought of openness and closedness (via Lyn Hejinian) and how your type of “identity”-based reading moves us toward a generative openness—one that is anything but univocal. In this way, you ask us to consider what it means to reject closure not only in our writing, but in our reading and criticism as well.

More than anything, I admire that your approach engages with the various ways racialized subjectivities “inhere” to a poem’s form and content while ultimately highlighting that, “racialized does not mean ‘fixed’—racial identity, like all identity, is contingent, not positivist. (TIP, 268). In essence, you seem to say, “YES—race is complicated. And YES—we can (and must) learn from trying to understand how it functions.” It’s not always easy to find models for how best to do this when it comes to poetry. So thank you for being a touchstone.

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One Response to Thank You Dorothy Wang

  1. Erica Mena says:

    Love this – the open letter is a great format. I too felt like sending her a million thank-yous when I first read this book; it’s such an important and necessary model for how to do this careful, open, considered, and complex critical reading. “In this way, you ask us to consider what it means to reject closure not only in our writing, but in our reading and criticism as well.” Love how you tie it in with Hejinian’s theories of poetic openness, and recognize clearly how important it is that critics of poetry engage in the same openness.

    Like

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