Poems are used a way of communication things that affect the society in a number of ways. Poets are known to have the tendency of using words to communicate things that are going on in their live, the lives of their friends or the whole society in general. With analyzing poems, we are in a better position to understand some of the factors that affect the society. By studying more than one poem and analyzing them together, we can compare and contrast the contents of each poem to get their meaning and whether they all share a certain bond, in terms of their themes, writing styles and the content. This paper will be contrasting and comparing two poems- “Lost Sister” by Cathy Song and “You, the fire” by Jenny Lu.
Lost sister poem my Cathy Songs talks about the confinement of peasant women in China. This is portrayed in the first part of the poem as the poem is divided into two different parts. From the first part of the poem, it is clear that the peasant women in China were enslaved; they had restrictions in terms of their freedom. They were not allowed to move freely within the society and due to this; they could not leave their homes. This is portrayed well in line 11, 12 and 13 of the first part of the poem “They never left home. To move freely was a luxury, stolen from them at birth” (Song). If they ever got a chance to leave their home, it would have been through sneaking. Due to these circumstances, the peasant women in China had to be patient in their lives and learn how to survive. They spent all their time taking care of the men in that society, “But they traveled far, in surviving, learning to stretch the family rice, to quiet the demons, the noisy stomachs” (Song). The second part of this poem is about a Chinese woman- very rebellious- who has moved to America from China. She has gone against the rules and traditions of her family and moved to America, thus the reason as to why she is dubbed as being rebellious (Clinton & Alcorn, 2003).
In America, she gets to experience a different aspect and view to life; the life in America in totally different from what she was used to in China. She realizes that women in America have more freedom than those in China, and due to this, they can move freely in the society, “In America, there are many roads, and women can stride along with men”(Song). This shows clearly that America is more evolved than China and some rules and traditions do not apply here. Women are seen as equals to men, unlike China, where women are supposed to be submissive to men. Apart from the different life in America, she comes to the realization that she is alone and lonely in America, and does not have anyone to turn to, or anywhere to go for that matter, “You find you need China: your one fragile identification, a jade link, handcuffed to your wrist” (Song).From this, it is clear that she misses her home country, China. Further towards the end of the poem and the second part, we learn that apart from missing her home country, she misses her family members, and wishes she was there as life was more meaningful down there, compared to life in America.
The second poem, “You, the fire” by Jenny Lu is about the destruction of a life and the meaning of a childhood. From the poem we get that the person is reminiscing on the childhood that was ripped from them due to a fire, “Fire that took down my childhood, you set ablaze that old house” (Lu, 2012). The personas house was set on fire and everything that they identified themselves with in the house was lost from the process. The persona questions the alleged fire that destroyed the childhood by destroying the house. For him or her, it is hard to remember how the fire looked like, such as the color and how aggressive the fire was “I never saw you. Were you red, orange, black? Did your fumes reach the black-blue skies? Did you cry, when you saw a part of me crumble into dust, to the ground?” (Lu, 2012). We can say that the fire is a symbol or a metaphor, representing something destructive that is really not the fire.
The themes from both poems are similar as they talk of destruction, though in different forms. For the Lost Sister poem, we see that the women in China are enslaved to take care of the men in their society and do not have freedom to move about in the society. They are enslaved to the traditions and culture of the Chinese people, thus destroying their value in the society and their value as women. From the second poem, “You, the fire”, we realize that the persona’s childhood was destroyed by the fire. The places where the persona used to lay and love in their home are no longer there, and all the persona has left are memories. Though the persona knows going back to the old house after growing old, it is still important for them to have a place where he or can associate with physically. This however, is not possible due to the destruction that has been made. Apart from the similarities in the themes, the two poems have a similarity in the choice of words, commonly referred to as the diction that the poets have chosen to use. Their words are very simple and direct; one can understand without having to reach for a dictionary to check the meanings. The words are well articulated and have a flow. The first line leads you to the next line and building up on the idea and the message that the poet wants to put across. Through this, it is very easy for the reader to understand the basis and the ending of the poems.
The writing styles from the two poems are different. Song has divided her poem in two parts; both carry different stories, but they talk about the same themes. Lu’s poem is one part and is broken down into thirteen stanzas. The stanzas are made up of two sentences only. Songs poem has no stanzas; the first part has twenty five lines and the second part has thirty nine lines. The difference in the themes of these two poems is that the persona in the first poem second part has not gotten used to the culture of the new country she has found herself in. On the other hand, the persona in the second poem is remembering the past that was ripped from their childhood. The first poem talks on the present tense while the second poem is relying more on the memories of the persona. The setting of the second poem is on the happenings of their past, their childhood to be more specific.
The breaking down of the poems in form of lines usually brings a certain meaning to the poem in question. From the first poem, Lost Sister by Song, some lines have been broken down by using dashes. These dashes show that the sentence that follows after the dash is not that important, though it is used to explain further the preceding line in the poem. Poets use this as a way of showing that the poem could be still good without that line, though the line has been used to emphasize on what the poet was saying. Lu’s poem is broken into stanzas of two lines. These lines are broke using full stops or comas.
Clinton, C., & Alcorn, S. (2003). A poem of her own: voices of American women yesterday and
today. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
Lu, J. (2012). Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, Issue 4. Retrieved from