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Coral Road: Poems Hardcover – September 27, 2011


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About the Author

Garrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawai‘i, lived as a child in Kahuku on O‘ahu, and grew up thereafter in Los Angeles. He is the author of two previous collections of poetry, three anthologies, and Volcano: A Memoir of Hawai‘i. His poems and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. He has been the recipient of several awards, including fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, and teaches at the University of Oregon, where he is Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Coral Road

I keep wanting to go back, across an ocean, blue-gray and uncaring,
White cowlicks of waves at the continental shore, then the midsea combers
Like white centipedes far below the jetliner that takes me there.
And across time too, to 1919 and my ancestors fleeing Waialua Plantation,
Trekking across the northern coast of O`ahu, that whole family
                                                                                      of first Shigemitsu
Walking in geta and sandals along railroad ties and old roads at night,
Sleeping in the bushes by day, ha`alelehana—runaways
From the labor contract with Baldwin or American Factors.

My grandmother, ten at the time, hauling an infant brother on her back,
Said there was a white coral road in those days, pieces of crushed reef
Poured like gravel over the brown dirt, and, at night, with the moon up,
As it was those nights during their flight, silver shadows on the sea,
It lit their path like a roadway made of dust from the Ocean of Clouds.
Michiyuki is what they called it, the Moon Road from Waialua to Kahuku.

There is little to tell and few enough to tell it to—
A small circle of relatives gathered for reunion
At some beach barbecue or Elks Club veranda in Waikiki
All of us having survived that plantation sullenness
And two generations of labor in the sugar fields,
Having shed most all memory of travail and the shame of upbringing
In the clapboard shotguns of ancestral poverty.

                                                                         Who else would even listen?
Where is the Virgil who might lead me through the shallow underworld of this history?
And what demiurge can I say called to them, loveless ones,
               through twelve-score stands of cane
Chittering like small birds, nocturnal harpies in the feral constancies of wind?

All is diffuse, like knowledge at dusk, a veiled shimmer in the sea
As schools of baitfish boil and revolve in their iridescent globes,
Turning to the olive dark and the drop-off back to depth below,
Where they shiver like silver penitents—a cloud of thin, summer moths—
While rains chill the air and pockmark the surface of the sands at Sans Souci,
And we scatter back inside to a humble Chinese buffet and cool sushi
Spread on Melamine platters on a starched white ribbon of shining cloth.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307594769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307594761
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,604,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anne E. Gall on August 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Deep meanings and memories so superbly expressed. I appreciated some of the local Hawaiian scenery and hearing of some of the same Italian locations where my husband served in WW2.
Requires a dictionary along side the book; I learned the meaning of some words new to me--an aspiring poet/writer with an MA degree.
Even without recognizing many of the advanced poetic techniques, the writing touches one's heart and soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carol B. Rice on October 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd recommend it to anyone who loves poetry that seems so true, so straight to the heart of the matter in a wonderful voice.
I like the language which mirrors the beauty of the islands where I also once lived. I was saddened by the history that is seen behind the recitals but c'est la vie. I'd recommend it to any one who likes the poetry of Walt Whitman, Billy Collins, Darrell Bourque or Gerard Manly Hopkins.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. R. Hummer on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Coral Road is Garrett Hongo at the height of his powers (and I hope this height is an endless plateau). In subject and in style (not to mention the extraordinarily lavish production Knopf has lavished on this volume) Coral Road is among the best books of poetry published this year. It is not to be missed.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DA NYC on April 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an interesting collection of poems that focus on the Japanese-American experience in Hawaii and during World War 2. This is not an easy collection to understand , but take your time and talk your way through it and you will find it very rewarding and revealing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hongo uses an interesting style of English language to bring in the different cultures: Japanese, Hawaiian, American. The sentences are beautiful and really gets to the reader.
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