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Asian Women and the Power of Poetry

Updated: Mar 21

Dear Asian Youth,

Art drives the world. Without words, without beauty, who are we?

We look to music and to literature in our everyday lives. It shapes our characters, it connects us to others around us, it gives us a channel to let out feelings that we can’t express on our own. It unites us.

We see poetry. It is writing, and it is art -- and is incredibly diverse in its endeavors. From it’s rhythm, mood, and symbolism, poetry provides a unique outlet for expression, and has been a significant factor in the artistic developments of cultures all around the world.

From Japanese haikus to the European romantic era, this love of poetry has been universal, just as it is timeless. We seek answers to modern questions in these lines and stanzas. Each word is carefully crafted and delicately threaded together to make a poignant statement distinct to its maker. Poetry can be as gentle and airy as it can be bold and hard-hitting. It makes for a diverse coalition of authors and messages, able to shape this mold into whatever they wish -- tackling personal experiences, addressing adversities, empowering others.

As an Asian woman, it can be difficult navigating these adversities. We battle between ties with our culture and the need to reject all normalities for self-liberation. We struggle to express ourselves the way we wish -- and the second we do, we are shunned or sexualized. We fight tirelessly against stereotypes and cut-outs that society deems us meant-to-be, still our hope fails from time to time and we think, are these stereotypes really that bad? I could live with this...

Microaggressions against Asian women are so widely observed yet so widely ignored -- by both the bystanders that look upon these acts of racism as well as the community that receives them. It’s an endless loop as we struggle to confront these aggressors as we are simultaneously shamed by our peers and relatives, assured that it’s better off if we just don’t. Asian women are put in an impossible dilemma, a middle ground with hardly any ways for us to claim our Asian identity with pride. We fit into one mold but not the other, we can find liberation -- but only with rejection comes with it, we can succumb to these stereotypes at the expense of our confidence.

It can become suffocating, searching for an identity that seems so scattered.

This is why creativity, literature, and art are so important in this fight for cultural and individual ownership. Here, we take these forms of expression and empty out our feelings of dejection as we empathize with one another, or to uplift our peers with tales of happiness and self-realization. This is where poetry finds its match in this struggle for identity as an Asian woman. Its lines and symbols are crafted towards this cause, creating a community of safety and acceptance as this journey winds on, one that each Asian woman embarks on for the entirety of her life.

Theresa Hak Kyung (1951-1982) articulated her feelings of Asian identity through her contemporary novel