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