Foreigner by Keith Holyoak


Illustrated by Jim Holyoak

“The poems touch upon many topics and scenes, not all of them Chinese, but this American poet has managed to resurrect for Anglophone readers the tone, aura, reticence, and profoundly dignified simplicity of the classical masters whom he has studied.” —Joseph S. Salemi

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  • Kind: Perfectbound or Hardcover
  • Pages: 114
  • Language: English
  • Published: October, 2012
  • ISBN: Perfectbound – 978-1-933675-77-0
  • ISBN: Hardcover – 978-1-933675-88-6


It is not every day a professional cognitive psychologist turns into a poet, yet that is what we have in Keith Holyoak. His study of Chinese poetry, especially Li Bai (Li Po) and Du Fu (Tu Fu), was the catalyst that brought about this remarkable metamorphosis. He has somehow managed to let the spirit of Chinese poetry speak through him, with no loss of his sense of being an American. A wonderful intelligence is brought to the task, which understands the profound subtlety of poetry, no matter what nationality it is. He writes in ‘Return to Peach Blossom Spring’: “Radiance washed / The blindness from my eyes.” We are able to re-experience the world through him, renewed in this way. His grasp of form, of political reality, of transience, and of the redemptive powers working in poetry, bring to American literature something no country can afford to lose: a sense of class in the fine arts. The Dos Madres Press is to be congratulated for publishing this book, which is sensitively illustrated by Jim Holyoak, son of the poet and psychologist. —Sebastian Barker FRSL, poet and editor of The London Magazine 2002-2008


How I admire their simple greetings,
the way each fits the other
as surely as a cardigan
passed down to son from father,

Streams from their ancestral well
flowing through their tongues,
lapping at each other’s ears
and bubbling up in laughter;

How I admire their careless grace
and stance of pure belonging,
the tapestries they weave, eyes closed,
spun out of word and gesture–

But I am ungainly bird
staring mute from a bough,
stopping a day and night before
I mount the sky to wander.


Keith HolyoakKeith Holyoak (whose adopted Mandarin name is “Kaishi”) was raised on a dairy farm in British Columbia, Canada. He has degrees in psychology from the University of British Columbia (BA) and Stanford University (PhD). His scientific work focuses on the nature of human thinking and its basis in the brain. He has been a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Currently he is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Keith’s son Jim, who also grew up in British Columbia, is an artist trained at the University of Victoria, Concordia University, and as an apprentice to Chinese landscape master Shen Ling Xiang in Yangshuo, China. His work has been exhibited widely, including galleries in Los Angeles, New York, Montreal and Vancouver. Both Keith and Jim spend part of their time at Pterodactyl Studio on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.

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Hardcover, Perfect bound