Monday, September 30, 2013

Turtle Soup by Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin

 Turtle Soup

You go home one evening tired from work,
and your mother boils you turtle soup.
Twelve hours hunched over the hearth
(who knows what else is in that cauldron).

You say, "Ma, you've poached the symbol of long life;
that turtle lived four thousand years, swam
the Wet, up the Yellow, over the Yangtze.
Witnessed the Bronze Age, the High Tang,
grazed on splendid sericulture."
(So, she boils the life out of him.)

"All our ancestors have been fools.
Remember Uncle Wu who rode ten thousand miles
to kill a famous Manchu and ended up
with his head on a pole? Eat, child,
its liver will make you strong."

"Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice."
Her sobbing is inconsolable.
So, you spread that gentle napkin
over your lap in decorous Pasadena.

Baby, some high priestess has got it wrong.
The golden decal on the green underbelly
says "Made in Hong Kong."

Is there nothing left but the shell
and humanity's strange inscriptions,
the songs, the rites, the oracles?

Question on Turtle Soup by Marilyn Chin

Exploration of the Text

1. Notice the author's choice of the word "cauldron" in line 4. What images or connections does this word evoke? Why might the author have chosen "cauldron" rather than "pot"?

Cauldron is what usually used by witches to cook their potions of nasty ingredients in. The image that the author tried to portray here might be the idea of the mother cooking that turtle itself is considered witch like act or socially unacceptable to the American culture as seen in this line:- 

(who knows what else is in that cauldron)

The line suggested as if the persona rhetorically questioning what else is in that pot/cauldron and it suggest that the persona is disgusted with things in the cauldron/pot because usually witch is associated of using horrible and disgusting ingredients in making their potions/cooking etc. 

2. Chin refers to "the Wei," "the Yellow",  "the Yangtze." Why does she reference these rivers in China? Why not include the Nile, the Amazon,  or the Mississippi?

It is suggested in the poem that the persona's mother came from the main land and it is easier for the persona to make a point if it is related to something closed and dear to mother instead of something foreign or alien to her.

3. What is the tone of the poem?

The tone may be considered as ridicule.  The 'argument' that happened between the persona and the mother might suggest a few other tones. I may be strict as both of them are standing their ground. As the argument got intense up to the point where it made the mother cries. It may also suggest anger, shown through the argument they had.

Ideas for Writing

1. "Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice." Write about this quote within the context of an immigrant family. What might a family gain or lose by moving to  a new land?

What one may say regarding the stated quote, in the context of an immigrant family are the culture and everything that they ever knew regarding their motherland. One may find it hard to simply forget about their memories back in their motherland, but that is all, just memories. When an individual moved or migrated to another country, they automatically lose their citizenship and that is something big to give and needs a thorough thought put to it. Losing citizenship is one thing, giving up your culture is another big thing to consider. Sure one can still practice their culture in their new land, but will it be socially accepted? For example, Malaysian likes to pay a visit to their closed ones, while in The States, they would regard that action as an inappropriate gesture as one should only come to another home if they are invited.

If we ought to talk about something that the immigrant gain, they may gained a better life abroad, get a good job and settle down. That IF they get the opportunity. Again, using The States as an example, the phases 'America, the Land of Opportunity', 'The Land of the Free', and 'the American dreams' may sound tempting, but those words have been thrown around so much lately that they have come overrated. What has the world witness for the past years in The United States? Immigrant left to rot. Unemployed and a sore eye to the nation hence the outside world. In other word, remember what one gives to gain something else. Is it worth it going through the troubles just one could buy a car that eventually polluted the environment? 

Relating the quote "Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice" to the an immigrant family, "Sometimes you're the life.." means the new land that offers new life for the immigrant, new hope and dreams to be achieved while the sacrifice is the culture and identity that one or in this case the family has to give in order to survive in the new land they called home or at least be accepted in the new land. Giving up something that has been thought or familiar to you and adapt or assimilate something that is so contrast to your culture or identity is something to ponder about. In the poem Turtle Soup, the persona's mother came from the Main Land which holds more than 5000 years of civilization while The States is a relatively new land. Adapting to their culture will surely be a challenge to the mother as it is something foreign to her and something that she would not simply forgotten. If one willing to trade his or her culture for another, then by all means, go ahead but if hesitation comes as a big wall of brick, one should ask his/herself, are you ready for this?

Group members : - Yvonne
                             - Izu
                             - Mira

Friday, September 27, 2013

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars.
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands

Questions on Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note by Amiri Baraka

Exploration of the Text

1. What is the mood of the speaker in the opening lines? What images suggest his feelings?

The mood suggested the speaking is feeling depressed. The evidence could be seen in the line below:-
‘The ground opens up and envelops me’
The line suggested that the Earth ‘welcomes’ him into the ground as if his time has come.

2. What is the significance of the daughter’s gesture of peeking into “her own clasped hands”?

The gesture of a clasped hand itself suggested that the daughter might be praying provided with her being on her knees.
‘Only she on her knees, peeking into’
‘Her own clasped hands’
While the gesture of her peeking into her clasped hands might say that she was ‘peeking’ for the presence of God. She might be puzzled by His existence.

3. What does the title means? How does it explain the closing line?

As the title suggested, it is a preface of a compilation of notes. Suicide notes to be précised. There are more or sequel to this poem, perhaps.
The closing line might say that whatever we did, it all comes to the God to guide our path of life. 

Frankly, humans are bound to pray when there is only misery in life and forget the Power Above when in a joy.

4. Why does Baraka have three short lines, separated as stanzas? How do they convey the message of the poem?

The separated-one-line stanza might represent the answer or sequel to its previous line which might act as foreshadow. It also helps to set the mood for the audience. It gives a brief moment for the audience to ponder and it strikes you with the one-line stanza. Furthermore, the one-line stanza helps to conclude its previous lines as a whole.

5. Why does Baraka begin stanzas with “Lately”, “And now”, “And then”? What do these transition words accomplish?

It suggested that his life as a whole is pretty much has ended for him for there is no more joy. Every day is same old story. It also signifies how bored and depressed he is with his daily life in chronological order. Just a little while ago, he already feels down in dump, and the present day, does not go any better and the much latter, things are pretty much the same for him - depression.

6. How does the speaker feel about his daughter? What does she represent to him?

Her daughter actually stands in fine line between life and death of the speaker. Although there is no strong evidence to support that the speaker is actually will or considering committing suicide, but let’s just believed that he is, her daughter essentially symbolizes a glimpse of hope and a motivation for the speaker. She is a reminder for him that he has something to live and for.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,   
   Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,   
I saw a Baltimorean
   Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
   And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
   His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”

I saw the whole of Baltimore
   From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
   That’s all that I remember.


Exploration of the Text

1. What is the nature of the interaction between the two boys?

It may have been a social stigma. The Baltimorean may have been brought up in a prejudice society or the act of sticking his tongue out is merely what children might do to other children as a symbol of naivety or childishness.   

2. Why does the speaker remember nothing more than the incident, even though he stayed in 
Baltimore from “May until December”?

Oppression is serious issue. No matter how old the individual is it can scars the victim emotionally for a very long time. Being treated as such at a young age, really took its toll on the persona and probably that was the only thing that had happened during his stay at Baltimore. It might be a town of racist society. Being significant as it is, that may have contributed to the persona’s memory of Baltimore during his stay.

The Reading/Writing Connection

1. In a paragraph compare your experience of prejudice with the persona in the poem.

I used to study in an all-boys school and back then, the norm of this school is to stick with your pack or in this case, your race. Unlike the persona in the poem, instead of just emotionally scar others for life, the boys in my school were actually going physical on other races that they do not like. And a tongue-sticking-act is the last thing you wanted to do in my school. Of course, this is not a ‘May until December’ period, this happens almost every day until you graduated from that school - if you get lucky. Luck has a funny way of messing the human beings. They prejudice does not stop at school; it may turn even uglier outside school. I am grateful that I finally came out from that ignorant way of life and eventually made some Chinese and Indian friends and we became best friends too!

Ideas for Writing

1. What do its form and rhyme add to this poem?

The inconsistency of the rhyme may have contributed to this poem. Indirectly, it lets the writer express himself more freely without the constriction from the rhymes.

2. What is the power of language? What are the effects of the use of the term nigger?

Nowadays, language represents a social hierarchy. For example, if one is proficient in English, the society/audience will respect you more and speak highly of you. Why? Well, because English is the world’s language. Mastering a foreign language takes years of study and practise. If one are able to speak more than one language very well if not fluently, then the society will look up upon you.

Now discussing the N-word, it is now known as the most offensive word in the United Stated. It is a term used to describe the black people. The word itself came from a Spanish word ‘negro’ which means the colour black. It is a no brainer that usage of this word has dire consequences. If used in a literature piece, it will be controversial and be banned by the public, probably. If used in a school report, the work might be rejected and if it is used on the street, let us just assumed that it is like buying a one-way-ticket to the cemetery.  So note to self and others, stay away from that term and use the right one - human.

Monday, September 23, 2013



My poem ‘The Bloody Playground’ is inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye’s ‘All Thing Not Considered’. It is about the war going on in a place (not specific) where everything was destroyed and killed. It is a point of view from a son/father/friend. What triggered the inspiration was because I am a fan of war poems. Not just poems but any literature works related to war.


Nothing was said, nothing was done
Dreams to be crushed and hopes to be shunned
Then came the hard head with a massive gun
Feeding them bullets just for the fun

Joyous cheers breaking the sound barrier
What is to be rejoiced when all is disappear?
When the Holy Book is already clear
Aren’t you supposed to love thy neighbor?

As I hold a handful of wet sand
Covered with red that came from a man
Bone house burnt to the last strand
Everything was taken and no ground to stand

As a soulless body falls into my arm
There’s no more smile to make you calm
No more hugs to keep you warm
Forget me not, as I love you mom

No mercy for the knelt plead
No turning back and forward we succeed
Two wishes for my budding seed
Be careful and Godspeed.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Women in Poetry (Anne Sexton)

Anne Sexton

Initially women were not into or even allowed in poetry. only in the 18th century women started to rise and fight for their rights especially through writings. one of my personal favorite women poet is Anne Sexton. sexton was not born during the 18th century but in 1928 in Newton, Massachusetts. her work is known for her profound confessional and painful/joyous nature. her works are greatly influenced by Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and W. D. Snodgrass. her central topic when creating a masterpiece generally revolves on women's issue and her own experience. one of her best known works is 'All My Pretty Ones' in 1962:-

Father, this year’s jinx rides us apart

where you followed our mother to her cold slumber;

a second shock boiling its stone to your heart,   

leaving me here to shuffle and disencumber   

you from the residence you could not afford:   

a gold key, your half of a woolen mill,

twenty suits from Dunne’s, an English Ford,   

the love and legal verbiage of another will,   

boxes of pictures of people I do not know.

I touch their cardboard faces. They must go.

But the eyes, as thick as wood in this album,   

hold me. I stop here, where a small boy

waits in a ruffled dress for someone to come ...   

for this soldier who holds his bugle like a toy   

or for this velvet lady who cannot smile.   

Is this your father’s father, this commodore

in a mailman suit? My father, time meanwhile   

has made it unimportant who you are looking for.   

I’ll never know what these faces are all about.   

I lock them into their book and throw them out.

This is the yellow scrapbook that you began

the year I was born; as crackling now and wrinkly   

as tobacco leaves: clippings where Hoover outran   

the Democrats, wiggling his dry finger at me

and Prohibition; news where the Hindenburg went   

down and recent years where you went flush   

on war. This year, solvent but sick, you meant   

to marry that pretty widow in a one-month rush.   

But before you had that second chance, I cried   

on your fat shoulder. Three days later you died.

These are the snapshots of marriage, stopped in places.   

Side by side at the rail toward Nassau now;

here, with the winner’s cup at the speedboat races,   

here, in tails at the Cotillion, you take a bow,

here, by our kennel of dogs with their pink eyes,   

running like show-bred pigs in their chain-link pen;   

here, at the horseshow where my sister wins a prize;   

and here, standing like a duke among groups of men.   

Now I fold you down, my drunkard, my navigator,   

my first lost keeper, to love or look at later.

I hold a five-year diary that my mother kept   

for three years, telling all she does not say   

of your alcoholic tendency. You overslept,

she writes. My God, father, each Christmas Day   

with your blood, will I drink down your glass   

of wine? The diary of your hurly-burly years   

goes to my shelf to wait for my age to pass.   

Only in this hoarded span will love persevere.   

Whether you are pretty or not, I outlive you,

bend down my strange face to yours and forgive you.

 The poem is about the persona experience with her father. she was abused due to his/her father's alcohol addiction. some argued that this poem is actually written based on Sexton's life. her father Harvey is a drunkard and known to abuse Anne Sexton. the idea of having a man as a main idea in this poem is still debatable especially in the feminist community. 

All Things Not Considered (Explanatory Draft)

The poem is about the conflict happening in the Middle Eastern specifically in Palestine. it seem like religion was the main idea in this poem. the writer questioned how does the war is considered holy? how is killing thousands of innocent life is called holy?

Was the war really for the people? the line ''Some picked up guns because guns were given.'' shows that some of them was going for war reluctantly (or by force?). they have no idea what was going on and yet they are told to fight for something that they are uncertain of.

"If they were holy it was okay to use guns." was the one who holding the guns are considered holy? they guns symbolized superiority or power. are the one holding the guns have the power? while the one with stones considered rebel? or the terrorist for this matter? words are merely a audible matter and nothing to be considered and this is where the guns intervene.

All Things Not Considered (Thesis & Mini Outline)

Title: What are the things not considered? people's lives? willingness to fight? 
Tone: The tone is mockery.

In what language
is this holy?
Writer questions religions. to what extend the war/effort is holy?

Asel Asleh, Palestinian, age 17, believed in the field
beyond right and wrong where poeple
    come together

to talk. He kneeled to help someone else
stand up before he was shot.

Hopes got shot down.literally

The Middle Eastern (Palestinian) were hoping for a better world to live with their beloved ones.

Some picked guns because guns were given 
They were forced to fight? for what? for whom?

At the end was the war really for sake of religion or the joy of killing?

All Things Not Considered by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye

All Things Not Considered
By Naomi Shihab Nye

You cannot stitch the breath
back into this boy.

A brother and sister were playing with toys
when their room exploded.

In what language
is this holy?

The Jewish boys killed in the cave
were skipping school, having an adventure.

Asel Asleh, Palestinian, age 17, believed in the field
beyond right and wrong where people came together

to talk. He kneeled to help someone else
stand up before he was shot.

If this is holy,
could we have some new religions please?

Mohammed al-Durra huddled against his father
in the street, terrified. The whole world saw him die.

An Arab father on crutches burying his 4 month girl weeps,
“I spit in the face of this ugly world.”


Most of us would take our children over land.
We would walk in the fields forever homeless
with our children,
huddle under cliffs, eat crumbs and berries,
to keep our children.
This is what we say from a distance
because we can say whatever we want.


No one was right.
Everyone was wrong.
What if they’d get together
and say that?
At a certain point
the flawed narrator wins.

People made mistakes for decades.
Everyone hurt in similar ways
at different times.
Some picked up guns because guns were given.
If they were holy it was okay to use guns.
Some picked up stones because they had them.
They had millions of them.
They might have picked up turnip roots
or olive pits.
Picking up things to throw and shoot:
at the same time people were studying history,
going to school.


The curl of a baby’s graceful ear.

The calm of a bucket
waiting for water.

Orchards of the old Arab men
who knew each tree.

Jewish and Arab women
standing silently together.

Generations of black.

Are people the only holy land?