The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Garrett Kaoru Hongo’s “The Cadence of Silk” consists of one long stanza of forty-two lines that describes the poet’s relationship to the game of basketball in general, and to the play of two teams in particular. The poem begins with the poet recounting how he originally became interested in basketball in Seattle, then continues with a description of his current favorite team, in Los Angeles. The poem directs the reader to the intricate details of the basketball game in such a way that even if the reader is not interested in sports, the cadence of the game will appear interesting.

The poem’s single stanza may be deceptive in its simplicity, but the poet is actually very carefully leading the reader from the speaker’s initial fascination with one sports team to his interpretations of the intricate details of the sport once he settles upon a home-team favorite. The poet’s purpose is merely to reveal his own fascination with the game, rather than to convince the reader that basketball is a worthwhile sport. While basketball is unlikely subject matter for poetry, the poet wins the reader over by mimicking the sounds of the sport through language choice and images.

While basketball is a game of hundreds of quickly executed plays, the poet takes the time in the second half of the poem to describe just one play performed by one of his favorite players. Through his detail of this single event the poet draws out the action of the poem to a conclusion that is as satisfying to the reader as the completion of an attempted basket is to the basketball fan. Thus, the poem imitates the pleasure derived from the sport by delivering the same spontaneity and success within the poem. The poet demonstrates his skills with language just as the sportsman demonstrates his skill with the ball.