My Favorite Warlord

Eugene Gloria. Penguin, $18 trade paper (86p) ISBN 978-0-14-213140-4
Fathers and sons; brothers, sisters, and immigrant culture; Filipino heritage and multicultural San Francisco; and—perhaps most prominent—the ideals and limits of Japanese martial tradition animate this lively, fast-paced third book from Gloria (Hoodlum Birds). His technique varies too, with a norm of broad-shouldered, no-nonsense free verse interspersed with quatrain, sonnet, pantoum, and haibun, a Japanese hybrid of verse and prose. Some of them are delicate, nearly funereal ("life unlike lacquer will always be rounded"), but others are tough, like the titular warlord, Hideyoshi, who organized the samurai and re-unified Japan. This "coarse man" stands in opposition to the poet's own Filipino immigrant father, "a big soft man in his pink T-shirt," commemorated in a six-part elegy. "My brother, who is quick/ to anger and prone to unreason" takes over other, more unsettled poems. Gloria establishes himself as a poet of memory, of masculinity, as well as of Asian-American political identity (with, for example, an elegy to Vincent Chin, slain in a famous anti-Asian hate crime). His formal resourcefulness and his attention to manhood, its symbols, its troubles, place him in the company of Bruce Smith, though his work will also, and rightly, find another niche among other Asian-American writers; Gloria (who teaches at DePauw University in Indiana) sets himself confidently against injustice, in favor of inquiry, amid the eclectic language of contemporary scenes. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/25/2012
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