Course Two: Poetry

Course Two – Poetry

This course seeks to examine how Asian American poets have utilized page poetry as narrative storytelling. Particularly, it seeks to interrogate how Asian American writers have used poetry in a distinct way from literature to express complex lived realities. Themes in the readings include the production of history, biracialism, postmodernism, Asian futurism, immigrant masculinity, colonialism, and language.

Course Readings

  • Collections
    • Engine Empire by Cathy Park Hong
    • Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • Poems
    • The Gift” by Li-Young Lee
    • “Thaw” by Jane Wong
    • “March of the Hanged Men” by Monica Youn

Discussion Questions

In groups, discuss the following questions as they pertain to the readings:

  1. How does Hong’s speaker use time in Engine Empire as a narrative device to explore race in the United States and beyond?
  2. How does Hong place historical fiction characters in conversation with science fiction, futuristic characters?
  3. What role does the speaker play in Engine Empire? In what ways does the speaker racialize and construct the characters across time?
  4. How does Nezhukumatathil’s speaker use nature and pastoral imagery as ways of accessing race, gender, and sexuality?
  5. What devices does Li-Young Lee use to engage immigrant masculinity?
  6. In “Thaw”, why does Wong choose to separate each line? What effect does this have on the reader?
  7. What is the relationship between each image that Youn uses in “March of the Hanged Men”? What narrative does the ordering of the images tell, and how would its narrative change based on how the images are ordered?
  8. Does form operate as a limiter or a catalyst for each poet?

Essay Questions

Examine the following questions as potential prompts for essays (5-7 pages double spaced):

  1. Engine Empire and Lucky Fish focus largely on the exploration of place and identity. How do Hong and Nezhukumatathil articulate the connection between geography, nation, and identity? Also, how do they portray multiracialism through the characters in their book?
  2. Placing two of the readings in conversation with one another, examine how the authors construct historical narratives through storytelling and characters. What role does the speaker play in the construction?

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