Born in Volcano, Hawaii, of Japanese-American parents, Hongo grew up on the North Shore of Oahu and later in California. His father was an electrician and his mother a personnel analyst. He was educated at Pomona College, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Irvine. He was the founding director of a Seattle theater group called the Asian Exclusion Act. In addition to his own poems, he has edited several books, wrote a collaborative book, The Buddha Bandits Down Highway 99 (1978), with Alan Lau and Lawson Inada, and wrote a memoir called Volcano (1995). He teaches at the University of Oregon. His work has often aimed at recovering his distinctive bicultural history, ranging from poems about his childhood in Los Angeles to poems like "Ancestral Graves, Kahuku" that recover his Japanese-American heritage. “Kubota to Miguel Hernandez in Heaven, Leup, Arizona, 1942” is the opening poem from a 7-poem sequence,“The Wartime Letters of Hideo Kubota,” in Hongo’s 2011 collection Coral Road. The sequence is written in the voice of a Japanese-American held in a World War II internment camp.