Poem: At Least. By Ha Jin. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. New York Times Magazine.
In a wry poem of direct counsel, Ha Jin dismisses obligatory mingling and networking. He’s talking to himself or to any of us, as the poem quietly advises and reasons. “A Distant Center,” Ha Jin’s profoundly appealing collection of poems written in Chinese, then translated by the author into English, contains so many breathtaking cleanses-of-spirit — begone bombast and posturing! Reading it is better than going to a spa. The title of this poem adds another encouraging nod to the topic. We may not know everything, but “at least” this.
“…Look, this skyful of stars,
which one of them
doesn’t shine or die alone?
Their light also comes
from a deep indifference.”
Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
Gay history. Most historians taken seriously are always straight. They wouldn’t know a gay person if they took him to lunch. A good example is Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, which doesn’t include the fact that he was both gay and in love with George Washington. Gore Vidal pointed this out to me.
Have you ever gotten in trouble for reading a book?
Not for reading one but plenty of times for writing one. Gay writers writing about other gays is not exactly a winning audience. And gays are not the best buyers or readers of their own. In “Faggots,” I used my best friend for one of the leading characters because he told such good jokes that I used. He never spoke to me again after the book came out.