Albert Saijo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Albert Saijo (1926[1]—2011[2]) was an Asian-American poet and, along with Shig Murao, one of only two Asian Americans to be recognized as a part of the Beat Generation.[3] Saijo's only solo collection of poetry, Outspeaks: A Rhapsody was published in 1997 when he was 71 years old.[4]

Early life[edit]

Saijo was born in California in 1926.[1] In 1942, Saijo and his family were removed from their California home and imprisoned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center as part of the U.S. government's program of Japanese American internment.[5] He later joined the 100th Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and served in Italy.[2]

The Backpacker[edit]

Saijo's The Backpacker (1972)[6] is a short book offering guidance on how backpackers can enter a spiritual psychedelic experience.[7] A new edition featuring an expanded section on food was published in 1977.[8] Reviewing The Backpacker in the hiking magazine Backpacker in 1973, Denise Van Lear wrote that "no other book so graciously portrays nature's lure as it relates to hikers. Saijo's eloquent prose will transform you."[9]

Trip Trap and relationship with the Beat Generation[edit]

Trip Trap (1972)[10] is a collection of haiku by Saijo, Jack Kerouac and Lew Welch.[11] The poems describe a road trip from California to New York[5] taken by the three men in 1959, and invoke Gary Snyder, who was then in Japan, as a kind of guiding spirit. Saijo and Welch first met Kerouac in California November 1959, when Welch offered to drive Kerouac to Northport, New York in his Willys Jeepster, nicknamed "Willy". As they travelled, the trio composed spontaneous collaborative poems. On arriving in New York, they visited Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky's apartment, then spent the night at Kerouac's mother's house in Northport before returning west.[12] Saijo and Kerouac became friends, bound by a shared wanderlust and appreciation of Zen Buddhism, cool jazz and alcohol.[5] Saijo later was a minor character in Kerouac's Big Sur, in which he takes the name "George Baso" and in Kerouac's depiction of the 1959 drive is described as "the little Japanese Zen master hepcat sitting crosslegged in the back of Dave's [Lew's] jeepster".[13]

Outspeaks[edit]

Saijo moved from Northern California to Volcano, Hawaii in the early 1990s. Six years later[5] he published Outspeaks: A Rhapsody (1997),[14] a lyrical memoir.[15] His poetry in Outspeaks is written entirely in capital letters and punctuated with dashes, resembling the work of the poets of the Beat Generation,[16] yet though his poems take a stream-of-consciousness form Saijo did not adhere to Kerouac's mode of spontaneous prose.[5] In his best-known poem, "EARTH SLANGUAGE WITH ENGLISH ON IT" he explains his style by expressing a wish for a "UNIVERSAL GRAMMAR", a "BIRTHRIGHT TONGUE" with "NO FORMAL-VERNACULAR OR DEMOTIC-HIERATIC OPPOSITION". With this "slanguage", he approaches topics including racism, the environment, technology and religion often from unexpected angles.[17]

Outspeaks also includes Saijo's recollections of his road trip with Kerouac and Welch,[18] and is grounded in the 1960s: Saijo writes "I CONSIDER MYSELF A CHILD OF THE '60S—IT WAS WHEN I BECAME A REBORN HUMAN".[19] In her review of Outspeaks in the alternative literary journal Tinfish, Juliana Spahr described Saijo as "a new [William] Blake".[20]

Saijo died in Volcano, Hawaii in 2011.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "[Japanese-American Internee Data File], 1942–1946". National Archives and Records Administration. 1988–89. Retrieved February 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary: Albert Fairchild Saijo". Honolulu Advertiser. 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  3. ^ Gray, Timothy C. (Winter 1998). "Semiotic Shepherds: Gary Snyder, Frank O'Hara, and the Embodiment of an Urban Pastoral". Contemporary Literature (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press) 39 (4): 541. ISSN 0010-7484. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  4. ^ Leong 2002, p. 272.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kam, Nadine (1997). "Running on rhapsody". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  6. ^ Leong 2002, p. 273.
  7. ^ Kemsley, William, Jr. (1974). "Can backpacking be a mystical trip?". Backpacker (6): 43. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ Krause, Joy (July 13, 1977). "Why Not Tuck a Cookbook in Your Backpack?". The Milwaukee Journal. p. 2. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  9. ^ Van Lear, Denise (Spring 1973). "Books". Backpacker (1): 8–9. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ Leong 2002, p. 273.
  11. ^ Park 2008, p. 103.
  12. ^ Maher, Paul Jr. (January 16, 2007). Kerouac: His Life and Work. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publications. pp. 397–398. ISBN 158979690X. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ Park 2008, p. 103.
  14. ^ Leong 2002, p. 273.
  15. ^ Wilson, Rob (July 3, 2000). Reimagining the American Pacific: From South Pacific to Bamboo Ridge and Beyond. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 191. ISBN 0822325233. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  16. ^ Leong 2002, p. 272.
  17. ^ Leong 2002, p. 272.
  18. ^ Park, Josephine (January 6, 2012). "Asian American Poetry". In Nelson, Cary. The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 407. ISBN 0195398777. Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  19. ^ Park 2008, p. 104.
  20. ^ Leong 2002, p. 273.

References[edit]

External links[edit]