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Transpacific Poetics: Ideographic and Prosodic Transpositions in Li-Young Lee’s “Persimmons” and Marilyn Chin’s “Summer Sleep”

  • Author(s): Cheung, King-Kok
  • Huang, Qinghua
  • et al.
Abstract

Through intercultural poetics the speakers in “Persimmons” and “Summer Sleep” chart their journeys from foreign pupils disciplined by English authorities to bilingual wordsmiths. Lee’s speaker, punished by a schoolmarm for his inability to differentiate between English words that look alike, later uses such visual similarity to replicate Chinese sight rhyme. Chin’s speaker, scorned by her mentor for being a “mediocre” versifier, becomes a sought-after instructor versed in prosodic sleight of hand. Both Lee and Chin address the loss of ethnic cultural heritage and reclaim their inheritance by literary cross-pollination. Where Lee attempts to align the two dominant cultural traditions, Chin subverts both. This essay demonstrates how transpacific literary exchanges can be advanced by radically different strategies, which also demand attendant linguistic knowledge and comparativist analytical techniques on the part of the critics to explicate.

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