Cathy Song (b. 1955)

    Contributing Editor: Shirley Lim

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Offer entry points to students by discussing Hawaiian immigrant history and cultural embedding of Asian-Japanese images and themes.

    Use posters of Utumara woodcuts and Georgia O'Keeffe paintings to make imagistic style come alive for students; also discuss narratives of picture brides.

    Students are interested in issues of family/kinship networks. They question how Song's networks are different from their own, looking for specific cultural markers.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    Asian immigrants into Hawaii, plantation culture; picture-bride customs; Asian emphasis on filial pieties, family ties; the poet's painterly interests in themes and style--these are among Song's themes.

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    Consider: imagistic conventions forming part of modernist, Williams's school of thought; the influence of aesthetics drawn from visual arts, also part of Williams's convention; Song's style of compression, density, natural rhythms of everyday speech.

    Original Audience

    Her poetry is in every way contemporary; her audience is intimately drawn into the observations.

    Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections

    Good comparisons would be with William Carlos Williams and early Adrienne Rich.

    Questions for Reading and Discussion/ Approaches to Writing

    1. Have students write down some of their own family history.

    2. Discuss mother-daughter relationships.

    3. Discuss the importance of place (homeland, region) in the formation of individual and community identity.


    I recommend my own review in MELUS (Fall 1983); Masumi Usui's "Women Disclosed" in Studies in Culture and the Humanities, 1995; and Gayle Fujita-Sato's "'Third World' as Place and Paradigm in Cathy Song's Picture Bride," MELUS, Spring 1988, 49-72.