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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Juncos, Sparrows, and Crows in the Transnational Poetry of Shirley Geok-lin Lim


This essay explores Lim’s efforts to express and encourage inclusivity through the agency of her poetic imagination. As Lim renavigates the Pacific and other terrain and writes, she strives for a “utopian goal,” or to “voice authenticity as a signified.” Her poems advocate self-empowerment so that her nestlings can find their way in a world full of individuals of every race, creed, and gender. Lim shapes her poems to recognize the exhausting, long-term efforts a traveler or migrant must make as he or she wanders; a journey is not always finite, circular, or linear. To propel her inclusivity efforts, Lim often draws on imagery, not just of birds, but also of political movements in Hong Kong and elsewhere, natural disasters such as wildfires, or even a sunshine-filled Californian moment. She crafts her form to share her advocacy via haiku, alphabet, and prose poems. The intersections of her form, poetic imagination, and transnational crisscrossings reveal the painstaking ways in which a crosshatched identity develops and emerges over a lifetime. This article offers a bird’s eye view of some of Lim’s recent poems, mostly published after 2014, including her “Cassandra Days: Poems,” as well as works from Ars Poetica for the DayDo You Live In?, and The Irreversible Sun, not to mention an unearthed and unpublished interview from 1985.

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