The Importance of Family in the Poetry of Cathy Song

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Cathy Song: Exploring Identity and Family Traditions

Cathy Song is one of the most celebrated poets born in Hawaii whose works cover her experiences as a woman living in America. She draws most of her actions from his ancestry of Korea-Chinese to criticize the issues raised in the community driven by the people’s color. Song extensively uses imagery to explore the problems emerging from her background and ethnic group. In most of the poems, she opposes the idea of being addressed as an Asian American writer. Through her volumes of poems, she gained popularity and national recognition leading to her nomination for the National Books Critics Circle Award in 1982. Song’s poem Easter: Wahiawa, 1959 featured in the book “From Totems to Hip-Hop” (Reed). In the poem, the author develops an exceptional flow through the use of imagery. The narrator creates a beautiful scene in the reader's mind on the Easter Sunday events at their home in Wahiawa. The poem highlights a systematic flow of ideas even though each of the paragraphs talks about different issues. The details provided are spill out in a straightforward manner. Something unique in the poem is that Song does not use rhyme at the end of each sentence. The essay seeks to explore the perceptions of Cathy Song concerning family, how a family could maintain its cultural practices in a foreign land. Further, the paper analyzes how the author uses rain and eggs symbolically.

Importance of Family and Keeping Traditions

According to Cathy Song moments shared with family members should be remembered because of the value it carries in their lives. In the poem “Easter: Wahiawa, 1959” Song explores how her family spent Easter, her grandparents at the time when Hawaii gained independence. During the time her family was assimilated into the American culture after staying in America for some years even though some of the family traditions were still preserved. Unlike in Hawaii family time is shared in the sugarcane plantation while in America families spend their free time watching movies together. Songs imagery shows her of a different life that his grandfather would be having walking around the Hawaii sugarcane fields carrying several stalks which could have caused the swelling of his arm (C. Song). In the majority of Cathy Song’s poems, she emphasizes the significance of family and advocates that family should stick together at all times (Song). She develops the idea of tribal self to explore the elements of interdependence between family members, community, and history. In a family setting, some practices have an impact on the member's norms and values. Song’s family considerably observed the principle of division of labor. During times of relaxing they would all focus on that and when working each member had a role to play. At the beginning of the poem, grandmother carries on with her duty of simmering the eggs using blue color and vinegar which is the traditional way of preparing food in their culture (C. Song). On the other hand, Song’s mother and her aunt kept the Easter eggs hidden using the pedal pushers and poodle cuts. Grandfather’s duty was to ensure the children activities are monitored just like a mother hen would protect her eggs. Father was responsible for capturing all the activities on a film so that the family could show it to other generations. The central aim of recording the events was for the family to keep and create more memories of the traditions followed during Easter despite being in a foreign land. Other family memories covered in the poem include the struggles her grandparents had to through to ensure that their grandchildren are safe and comfortable. In Hawaii, her grandfather cut sugarcane for eighteen years to the point that his right arm became disproportional to other body parts. Song adds that the hand became larger because of the burden of carrying three grandchildren at that position.

The Symbolism of Rain and Eggs

Song emphasizes the presence and absence of the rain with each session having its unique impact on the Easter event. The narrator future illustrates a healthy relationship between the rain and the eggs. She mentions that when it stopped raining the family got an opportunity to do other activities. For instance, after the rain grandmother could hang the laundry which might have been wet for some days. Cathy Song shows compassion about the rain as it brings some warmth that is similar to that of children living in Islands. However, the presence of the storm is ominous, and it imposes some threat to ruin the celebratory mood of the family (C. Song). The poem is developed from the author's memory when she was at her child during Easter egg hunt. During the season the family would come together to share the happy moments. Song explores her view of life through the pattern of Easter events. The rains are a threat to the Easter celebrations she says that “a membrane of egg whites, Straining Under the weight, of the storm that threatened to break.” This explains why the family is afraid of the rain cause they will all have to stay locked in the house. They cannot engage in outdoor activities that would make Easter great. However, towards the end of the poem Song’s perception about the rain is entirely different after the successful Easter egg hunt experience. Further, the storm provided the family with an opportunity to stay together talking about various issues that affect them and the plans they have. She becomes more excited to spend time with her grandfather. If the rain stops, all family members will have different things to handle thus less time devoted to talking about personal issues. The rain’s value to the family transforms from negativity and is now directed to the success of the eggs hatching. Despite the massive storms, Song’s found three eggs during the walk with her grandfather. The egg and shells are symbolic components of the story expressing interdependence and generosity.

Maintaining Family Traditions in a Foreign Land

In the poem, Song develops a more profound understanding to the reader about the family’s history and tradition. Despite moving out of Hawaii, the family is still steadfast in maintaining their practices (Chen). During their grandfather’s young age he would go for long walks to the riverbank in search of the quail eggs. Similarly, during Easter, he walks with his grandchildren to egg hunt which made the experience more enjoyable. During Easter eggs were considered so valuable it expressed some sense of fulfillment or reward. In the poem, they are described as treasures and gleaming pearls. In the eighteen years grandfather working as a plantation laborer, he became fond of the long walks despite his old age. The artistic development of the poem has been influenced by Song’s idea of their island history. The narration is significantly tied to the author's experience in Wahiawa and the loving and caring setup of her family. The poem shows that, even though America has several immigrants, most of the families still hold to their traditions and believes. Song’s grandfather originates from Korea and cannot fluently communicate with his grandchildren in English (Kyhan). His physical appearance could even suggest he is not an American. The children would remove breadcrumbs from his whiskers. During the time's grandfather was speaking with the grandchildren he used the Korean language which he was fluent in speaking. This means that the children had an opportunity to learn about the Korean language and knowledge concerning the culture. The interaction between the two generations is a means of educating each other of the bicultural setting they leave in so that they can understand each other.

Preserving Cultural Practices in a Foreign Land

In conclusion, from the poem, it is evident that American immigrants have a choice to make on whether to maintain their cultural practices or not. The decision may not be easy to make because each of them has an impact on the family’s well being. The transformation is not simple for the older generation; grandfather still has a challenge in speaking fluent English despite living in America for eighteen years. The family has managed to maintain the Easter celebrations as a season for spending time as a family and engaging in activities that reminds them of their tradition. During Easter, the children and their grandfather went for egg hunt which was a tradition while the grandmother prepared the eggs simmering it with vinegar and blue color. The major Easter activities were influenced by the desire to create happy moments with family members.

Works Cited

Chen, Fu-Jen. ""Body and Female Subjectivity in Cathy Song’s Picture Bride."."Women’s Studies 33.5 (2004): 577-612.

Kyhan, Lee. ""Korean-American literature: the next generation."."Korea Journal 34.1 (1994): 20-35.

Reed, Ishmael, ed. . From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas 1900-2002. Da Capo Press, , 2002.

Song, Cathy. Easter: Wahiawa. 1959.

Song, Cathy. Picture bride. No. 78. Yale University Press,, 1983.

December 12, 2023

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