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(2.4) Asian American Poetry



- Asian American literature was at first written in the original languages for audiences within the community

- includes mostly the Chinese and Japanese, but also writers with roots in Korea, the Philippines, or South Asia

- Chinese and Japanese poetry is the oldest within the Asian American literature, other ethnics follow only later

- Asian Americans settle at the Western Coast, the Chinese especially in San Francisco, the Japanese also at Hawaii


> Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971)

- the first anthology of Asian American literature

> Counterpoint: Perspectives on Asian America (1976)

- the poetry included was not yet characteristically Asian American, focused mostly on the struggle of the third world countries against the colonial oppression

> Aiiieeeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers (1974)

- the first influential anthology of prose and drama, did not include poetry yet

- includes authors who were born in America and had no immediate experience of their original countries

- aims to shatter the stereotypical image of Asian Americans as the exemplary minority that got easily assimilated

> The Big Aiiieeeeee! (1990-1)

- the first anthology to draw attention to Asian American poetry

Chinese Americans


- the first Chinese immigrants came in the half of the 19th century, attracted first by the Gold Rush, then by jobs at railway constructions, settled mostly at the Western Coast, especially in San Francisco

- welcome by employers as hard-working and obedient, but evoked xenophobia by the rest of American population

- Nationality Act (1870): declared Asian Americans aliens without civil rights, denied them American citizenship, and segregated them in China Towns

- Chinese Exclusion Act (1882): made marriages of Asian men to white American women illegal

- Immigration and Nationality Act (1965): abolished the quotas restricting immigration from Asian countries


- China Town life: by the end of 19th century the Chinese ghettos were inhabited mostly by single men who could not afford to bring their wives from home and were prevented from marrying white women

- China Town becomes a symbol of traditional values, including the patriarchate, which for younger writers is however a positive value and their only connection to their original culture

- other subjects: celebration of traditional Chinese culture, negative reaction against assimilation, a chronicle of hard work at railway constructions, also rise of feminism among Chinese American women writers


- the first poetry written in Chinese emerges in the San Francisco China Town, a platform for several local magazines and many literary circles supporting the poets

- a series of 135 poems was written on the walls of the immigration centre at Angel Island by detained immigrants, was transcribed and survived for publication

- most contemporary poets use the rich Chinese cultural heritage in the context of modern poetry written in English

Marylin Chin (b. 1955)

- preoccupied with satirizing the stereotypical image of Asian Americans as the exemplary minority

> ‘How I Got That Name’: a satirical interpretation of the speaker’s ethnic origin

Li-Young Lee (b. 1957)

- a male poet, both relies on Chinese traditions and as an assimilated American seeks to take distance from them

> The City in Which I Love You: a poetry collection meditating on life, death, and the role of one’s original culture

> ‘The Cleaving’: based on the image of a duck being cut for the speaker by a man at a street stall

> ‘I Ask My Mother to Sing’


Japanese Americans

- the first poetry is written in Japanese, mostly in haiku and other traditional Japanese forms

- most contemporary poets are the second (nisei) and third (sansei) generation of immigrants, preoccupied with the motif of persecution during the Second World War

- after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) and the American entry into the war the Japanese living in the US were enclosed in internment camps and temporarily deprived of their civil rights

Garrett Hongo (b. 1951)

- a Hawaii-based author of lyric poetry seeking to find a new ethnic regionalism

> ‘Something Whispered at the Shakuhachi’

Other Ethnics

Cathy Song (b. 1955)

- a Hawaii-based poet of Chinese-Korean origin

> Picture Bride (1983): domestic poetry inspired by both Korean and Chinese literary traditions

> ‘Lost Sister’: an insight into the world of Chinese women restricted by traditions

> ‘Heaven’: a characteristically Chinese American adoration of the far-away home country

Ai (b. 1947)

- a radical feminist poet of Japanese parentage and mixed racial ancestors

- preoccupied with pictures of violence between the sexes with man being in the subordinate position

> Killing Floor (1979)

> ‘Woman to Man’: a dramatic monologue of a strong women dominating over her lover

Agha Shadid Ali (1949-200)

- a male poet of Kashmir origin (the area shared by India, Pakistan, and China),

- wrote mostly formalists poetry, mastered the postcolonial crossover of western and eastern forms

- preoccupied with the subject of being torn from one’s roots

> ‘I See Chile in My Rearview Mirror’

> ‘Even the Rain’

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952)

- a poet of Palestinian origin, preoccupied with the contrast between the eastern and western civilization

> ‘Blood’

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    North American Poetry 1945 - 2002.
  • Semestr

    Letní semestr 2008/09.
  • Vyučující

    Jiří Flajšar.
  • Status

    Volitelný seminář pro III. blok.


Flajšar, Jiří. Dějiny americké poezie. Ústí nad Orlicí: Oftis, 2006.

Jařab, Josef. American Poetry and Poets of Four Centuries. Praha: SPN, 1989.

Jařab, Josef, ed. Dítě na skleníku. Praha: Odeon, 1989.


© 2008-2015 Všechna práva vyhrazena.