The City in Which I Love You By Li-Young Lee For a New Citizen of These United States Asian American Poetry Poetry is an author s tool to produce written work in order to express themselves and evoke emotions and feelings they have. Poetry comes in many different forms and from much different type of authors. It can be categorized in different ways. There are similarities and differences amidst the different types of poetry.
Poetry classified Asian, or Asian American poetry share similarities based on culture and race. The roots of an Asian poem most often times come from someone of Asian descent but this isn t always the case. An African American can write Asian American poetry if he captures both cultures in his writing. The things that make an Asian poem an Asian poem are countless. There are many variables in the equation. For a New Citizen of These United States by Li-Young Lee is a powerful poem that conveys a sense of Asian American-ness and also expresses a great deal of emotion.
Sorrow and persecution surround For a New Citizen of These United States, . The poem is written in a manner where Lee makes the audience seem ignorant of the events he calls out, But you don t remember, I know, so I won t mention that house where Chung hid. It s clear Lee feels that the person or person s he s talking too has little understanding what he s talking about. He expresses his feelings well with vivid and exotic descriptions, And I won t hum along, if you don t, when our mother s sing Nights in Shanghai. (1) The song title Nights in Shanghai combines history and culture to create a classical picture of past times. The history is a major factor in the poem and is an element to why this is an Asian American poem.
What exactly is going on in the poem is unclear. The author mentions that he is at a railroad station with other Chinese families but does not specify in which county or city. The poem goes on to talk about how the mothers stitched money into the coat linings to prepare their children for escape. He wants to escape from the railroad station, location unknown, to the United States assumed by the title of the poem.
The setting of the poem is in the 1960 s. Along with other Chinese families the author is held captive at a railroad station being scattered and are trying to escape from whoever captured them. This is the history of the Chinese people and culture; therefore it s part of Lee also. This also brings another element of so-called Asian-ness into the poem.
Written in English the poem combines both cultures, Chinese and American into one. Lee writes of his family s past and based on the names he uses in the poems such as Ming and Chung its clear he s of Asian descent. Having written the poem in English suggests that Lee has learned English and may have grown up in the United States later in his life. The poem does not have any standard form and is written in free verse. Writing the poem in free verse can be associated with the author s allegiance to the west. Like the United States, the poem is neither conservative nor regulated with an iron hand.
The author has complete freedom to do whatever he wants and say whatever he wants. This is similar to the United States government, freedom of speech, etc. Lee uses his written freedom the same way an American citizen would use their rights. He also writes And since you don t recall the Missionary bells (2) suggest that he might be Christian or was around the church. The missionary bells would also suggest that the setting is not in the United States but most likely China. During the 1960 s Christianity was most popular in the United States and Europe.
Missionaries were and still are uncommon in the United States but missionaries working in China were very common and still are today. Most missionaries were sent from the United States and they not only spread the word of God, but also taught English and shared their cultures with the people they worked with. A missionary can be considered as an influence of American culture and if the author had any contact with the mission then his introduction to American culture could have come from there. The poems mood and reactions are much like that of Christianity. He wants his audience to hear his message but has little faith in its effect, But you don t know, I know.
(3) There is no anger, rather concern, which is somewhat similar to Christianity. This can be also considered as an American influence because Christianity to the Chinese has been a western idea. There are many elements in a poem to make it what it is, whether it s nursery rhyme or Asian American poetry. To be considered Asian American poetry there must be a combination of influence from both cultures. One s past, family and education are all elements to an Asian American poem. For a New Citizen of the United States, by Li-Young Lee is a poem that has elements of both cultures Asian and American in it.
The title itself also shows that the United States is playing a big part in his life if he s a new citizen coming from the East.