You’re so …

For my found poem, I decided to dissect the song “Ur so Gay” by Katy Perry.   When I first heard this song, I could not believe how offensive it was.  It immediately came to my mind to use as a found poem because of its offensive lyrics and overall message.  I cut up the words from the first verse of the song and placed them at the top of my poem.  In the upper right section of the poem there are offensive terms Perry uses to characterize the subject of her song.  The upper left portion of the poem contains personal beliefs regarding what the speaker wants for the subject.  The speaker acts as a bully in this poem, calling out a gay person as inferior because of their differences.  The upper middle of the poem contains other offensive descriptions of what the speaker considers to be a gay person.  My found poem can be read in any direction.  It is meant for the reader to find meaning by reading vertically, horizontally, diagonally, or backwards.  It is up to the reader to understand these offensive terms in their own way.  No matter which way this poem is interpreted, it should always have the same theme of discrimination against gay people.

For the second half of the poem, I decided to focus on the central theme of calling out a gay person.  To the left, I arranged several statements of “You’re so gay” to hone in on how offensive this claim really is.  I believe the repetition implies how much discrimination gay people face and how difficult it is for them to be accepted by the majority of people.  In the center, I included many fragments of “you don’t even.”  This is meant to reflect the confusion of the speaker in understanding his or her subject.  It shows how many refuse to accept gays because of their inability to understand them.  To the right of the poem, I organized the terms “like” and “boys” in several different ways.  Once again, it is up to the reader to interpret these fragments and understand them in whichever ways they see fit.  The central message of my found poem is to highlight discrimination faced by members of the LGBTQ community and to help readers understand the struggles that they face.  

A Different Perspective: How Chen Chen’s Poetry Offers Insight Into Another Life

Chen Chen’s reading of poetry from his work, When I Grow Up I want to Be a List of Further Possibilities was very intriguing and thought-provoking.  The poems he read were honest, brazen and powerful.  They are sassy in that they serve as a critique of social standards.  Chen Chen’s poems include himself as the subject and develop around the circumstances of his life.  The first few poems that he read described his life in a rather sad way.  For example, “First Slight” tells the story of his family leaving China and coming to the United States.  Although he does not remember much of the immigration, it is told through his mother’s viewpoint.  Chen Chen explained that after some time of writing, he became sick of writing sad stories and decided to change his methods of critiquing injustice.  In his poem “Eulogy for my Sadness”, he turns his sadness into angriness.  I felt that the works of Chen Chen could be related to some of the works we read in class, including “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects).”  Each of these works draws on unfair aspects of society and yearns for its readers to consider change.

My personal favorite poem read by Chen Chen was “I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party.”  In this poem, Chen Chen explains how he invites his parents to dinner with his boyfriend.  They have met his boyfriend before but this is the first time they will be seeing him with the knowledge that he is dating their son.  Chen Chen’s parents are not supportive of his homosexuality.  I really like the way that this poem is told from the perspective of Chen Chen and invites the readers into his mind.  It helps readers to see the struggles that gays face and the personal adversity Chen Chen experiences in dealing with his strict, Chinese parents.  This poem reminded me of The Woman Warrior because it reflects the difficulty the speaker faces in discerning between Chinese and American ideals.

Overall, I really enjoyed the poetry reading by Chen Chen.  It undermined my understanding that poetry (and other literary works) can be used to make individuals reconsider widely and personally held beliefs through viewing society through the perspective of another.

Ghost Stories: The Role of Chinese Culture and American Ideals in the Lives of Chinese-American Women

Throughout The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston highlights the influence of Chinese culture on the lives of Chinese-American women growing up in the United States. The title, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, is representative of the overall themes presented within the work. Stories from the past, treatment of women, and ghosts all play a large role in describing the struggles of Chinese girls growing up in American society.

In the chapter titled Shaman, Kingston introduces several stories told by the narrator’s mother. These stories serve as a glimpse into the mother’s life in China, which allows the reader to compare and contrast the narrator’s childhood with her mother’s. In one of her stories, she recalls an encounter with a ghost while she is on her way back from doctoring. This battle with a ghost, and the others revealed afterwards, imply the negative connotations that the Chinese associate with the term ghost. It shows that those immersed in Chinese culture believe that ghosts are haunted creatures that need to be defeated. The narrator goes on to explain that she knows her mother was victorious in her encounter with the ghost, because she can eat anything. She states, “Big eaters win” (90). This reflects the value placed on eating in Chinese society: those who can eat an obscure variety of foods are seen as strong and admirable, capable of overcoming the evil spirits known as ghosts. These stories give the readers insight into Chinese culture by painting an image of the life of narrator’s mother and therefore making it easier to envision Chinese practices and ideals.

Not only are ghosts presented in the story of the past, but they also play a role in the narrator’s modern life. The narrator recalls, “Once upon a time the world was so thick with ghosts, I could hardly breathe; I could hardly walk, limping my way around the white ghosts and their cars” (97). In this statement, the narrator is referring to White Americans as ghosts. She is characterizing them in this negative light because they are foreigners who discriminate against Chinese immigrants. She is implying that these ghosts were everywhere during her childhood; they were unavoidable. Her diction makes the reader feel as if the ghosts are restricting her from reaching her full potential. The use of the word “limping” suggests that the narrator was forced to live her childhood in the shadows of these white ghosts. While growing up, she continued to try her best to please her parents, but had to do so with discrimination from Americans. This idea is backed up by historical context, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese from immigrating to America.

While the narrator struggles with injustice from Americans, she also has to deal with the burden of rigid Chinese ideals. She describes the situation of her childhood household, “I could feel that clamping down and see how my mother had pulled the blinds down so low that the bare rollers were showing. No passer-by would detect a daughter in this house” (101). This statement reflects the concept that most Chinese felt ashamed to have daughters. The narrator uses descriptive language to show the intensity of her mother’s shame. She pulls the blinds as far down as possible to hide the fact that she has a daughter. Although girls were often looked down upon in Chinese society, women were responsible for many important roles. The narrator’s mother explains, “I shouldn’t have left, but your father couldn’t have supported you without me. I’m the one with the big muscles” (104). This quote is representative of similar ideas presented in A Raisin in the Sun, ideas that women are inferior to men even though they are just as hard working. This unjust viewpoint is present across cultures: it is held in both Chinese and American cultures. However, at the time the narrator is speaking, women’s’ rights were more widely accepted in America. This allows for another conflicting value between Chinese and American cultures for the narrator. The two cultures contrast and make it difficult for the narrator to establish her own identity.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you feel that there are any specific stories shared that have a significant impact on the narrator’s life? If so, which one(s) and why/how?
  2. What literary elements does the narrator use in describing the “ghosts” and how does this use reflect her viewpoint of Americans?
  3. How do some of the values introduced in The Woman Warrior relate to values presented in A Raisin in the Sun? (For example: treatment of girls/women). In both works, how do these values shape or inhibit the identities of the main characters?

Hey it’s Emily!

Hi everyone!  My name is Emily.  I’m from Kings Park, Long Island and this is my first semester at SUNY Cortland.  I am a sophomore transfer student from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue.  I’m super excited to be here at SUNY Cortland and I’m looking forward to making new friends.  I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember and my major is English Adolescent Education.