chapter  12
12 Pages

National Identity Reconsidered: The Intersection of Ethnicity and Sexuality in The Book of Salt

WithDEBORA STEFANI

Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki, a critic of Basho in the late nineteenth century, remains enormously important to the preservation as well as transformation of haiku for the modern era. Shiki's radical rejection of a sacred tradition within a literary form dedicated to honoring that tradition offers the kind of boldness and honesty central to African-American resistance, affirming the value of nonconformity and speaking truth to power. From the 1960s until today, African-American writers who followed Richard Wright have continually made radical connections and radical breaks with the haiku tradition. The partnership between a Black aesthetic and the haiku form creates a unique space of cross-cultural negotiation brought about by an increasingly globalized culture that influences all aspects of society, including literature. African-American haiku then contribute to a new transnational, postcolonial ethnic canon of literature which tears down the walls of the project of canon-building within the narrow scope of national literatures.