Poetry Assignment 1

Due Wednesday, October 11

Typed, printed out, and stapled. Do not forget to type the interpretation of your poem.

This assignment has two parts. The first part is a poem of between 100 and 150 words (we will look at some of the poems from previous quarters to get a sense for an appropriate length for a poem). The second part is a few sentences that interpret the poem. In other words, restate what the poem means. Type your poem and interpretation and hand it in during class on the 11th.

Your first poem should be about one of your experiences with class difference. You will most likely be transforming one event from your Telling Your Story assignment into a poem. Like your Telling Your Story assignment, your poem should include both you and a person you know who is much wealthier or much less wealthy than you. However, in contrast to the Telling Your Story assignment, you will be using a poem rather than a narrative in order to communicate one of your experiences of class difference. You will have to be creative because of formal limits of poems. You will not be able to provide a great deal of background, you cannot rely on concepts, and you will probably not be able to refer to repeated actions.

I will be expecting the poems to be similar with regard to aesthetics. Here are some aesthetic guidelines:

  1. Do not use the words "Asian" or "Asian American."
  2. Use ordinary language, not "poetic" language. In other words, you should aim for words that you have heard or used before in daily life. You can also use a small number of common words or phrases that are not in English as long as you give translation and romanization (if necessary) in parentheses.
  3. Do not rhyme.
  4. Although you should use ordinary and common language, you should aim to use the words to say things that have never been said before.
  5. Make your poem accessible to the senses. In other words, your poem should focus on things you can touch, taste, smell, hear, or see or on actions that involve the bodies of the characters. That is, your poem should focus on images and on the material world.
  6. Your poem should focus on images and not concepts. "Lifestyle" is a concept, and you should not use that word.
    Here are examples of images:
    Gucci handbag
    Cookies and cakes my aunt makes
    She wrapped my rice in nori
    iPhone 7
    My cousin's classroom
  7. The poem should be told from your own perspective. In other words, the poem should be autobiographical. Because the poem is told from your perspective, you cannot put thoughts into the minds of other characters.

Reflect on your addressees before you write your poem. Most immediately, your addressee might be the person who was the focus of your Telling Your Story Assignment. Your addressees might also be parents/family, international students from your country, students from your high school, or people with a specific immigration status/identity. Additionally, you should also think of Asian Americans like your classmates as your audience. However, make sure that you do not try to address everybody.

For some of you it will be helpful for you to use stanzas like paragraphs. A stanza break can show a turning point so that you can illustrate how a situation changed. You could also use the stanza break to show contrasts between points of view.

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