Coral Road

Coral Road: Poems. Knopf. Oct. 2011. c.120p. ISBN 9780307594761. $26. POETRY
With anguish and love, Pulitzer Prize finalist Hongo (The River of Heaven) presents his ancestors' stories as they unfolded on the island of Oahu, their first homeland after they migrated from Japan. Hongo here sees poetry as a meditation, and he touches on everything from nature, personal experience, and myth to his ancestors' experiences of love and survival. To a great extent, he relies on narrative, with meaning emanating from the constant stream of places, colors, names, and anecdotes he cites. But Hongo's lively images and fluid tone prevent the reportorial style from slipping into passive documentation, and his language embodies the local as a way of connecting with the vast outside world: "When you see the blue sky that one day in Istanbul, Nazim/ How can you lie down on the ground and look up to it/ In respectful devotion to its full immensity."
VERDICT Hongo's lyricism echoes Whitman's, and his shaping of life experiences through poetic stories generates a tremendous feeling of intimacy. This poetry narrates journeys we all take and is recommended for all readers.
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