“As my obsession grew, I discovered there was something else behind it that was driving me – a search to reconnect with my father, who passed away over thirty-five years ago, when he was fifty-eight and I just thirty-two.”
William Wordsworth once described poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility.” In Garrett Hongo’s exquisite new memoir “The Perfect Sound,” the award-winning poet, essayist and educator seeks to provoke a certain tranquility through the creation of a perfect home audio system. It’s an obsession that many men indulge, but Garrett’s quest runs deeper. Through better equipment and richer sound, he finds that the music of his past unlocks richer memories. “And in that space, much more starts rushing in,” he says, “like standing in a lagoon with the incoming tide – and you feel that surge of current come.”
At its core, “The Perfect Sound” is a son’s reminiscence of his father – like nights observing his hard-of-hearing dad craft his own stereo system before deafness wiped music away. But as Garrett improves his sound, the sound expands his journey: through childhood in Hawaii and Los Angeles, teenage crushes and friendships, racial integration and discrimination, love affairs, travel, and finding his own poetic voice – all brought vividly back by Aretha and Joni, Clapton and Coltrane, opera, jazz and blues, R&B and rock’n’roll. To celebrate his brilliant range and resonance, we’re thrilled to also offer Garrett’s elegiac book of poetry, “Coral Road,” which further honors his family back three generations in Hawaii. In poetry and prose, what makes his books so wonderfully readable is his deep love of language and music. There’s melody to savor on every page.
Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and his work has been recognized with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. This year, he was given the Aiken Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in poetry. Author of three poetry books, three non-fiction books, and a regular contributor to audio publications, Garrett lives in Eugene where he is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Oregon.