Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of literary carnival, which has constantly been refined in recent developments of literary and cultural studies, presents a vision of literature as comprising various carnivalizing forces in a process of constant shifts and movements that confront a canonical center. The concept of literary carnivalization, in opposition to canonization and totalization, suggests an interaction among various literary and cultural manifestations. In this sense, Asian diaspora poetry can be considered as embodying a carnivalistic space for performing various cultural differences and literary practices. By associating carnivalistic discourse with diaspora, we will be able to view Asian diaspora poetry in a broad context and to address a few stylistic issues in a new perspective. In a book about postcolonialism, Bill Ashcroft et al. have described a situation that has pointed relevance to our discussion: “This cultural hegemony has been maintained through canonical assumptions about literary activity, and through attitudes to post-colonial literatures which identify them as isolated national off-shoots of English literature, and which therefore relegate them to marginal and subordinate positions”
(1989, 7). The elitist hegemony functions as a canonical filter that operates in literary criticism. The works that happen to pass the filter may receive a kind of recognition, while most of Asian diaspora writings are screened out. As Susan Bassnett has perceived for the study of literatures outside of the canonical center, it is necessary “to start with home culture and to look outwards, rather than to start with the European model of literary excellence and to look inwards” (1993, 38). In our reading of Asian diaspora poetry, we also need to reorient the angle of our perception in order to reconsider the canonizing elitism that still lingers in people’s minds. Asian diaspora poetry “has not harvested the amount of critical attention that it truly deserves,” as Guiyou Huang notes, “despite the proliferation of a larger number of poets of Asian descent in the twentieth century” (2002, 1). One of the reasons is that Asian diaspora poetry has its unique features and characteristics which cannot fully be explained within the confines of Western poetics. Probably the cultural diversity and stylistic contumacy that we find existing in Asian diaspora poetry can best be examined with reference to Bakhtin’s idea of carnival, since it “can be understood only in relation to a set of differences which both oppose it and, at the same time, enable it” (Holquist 1985, 222). For this reason, the concept of carnival provides an important tool for analyzing precisely and deeply the cultural and literary differences within the body of Asian diaspora poetry.