Vague and Ambiguous: The Process of Identity in Asian American Poetry

Publication Year



Poetry, Asian-American, identity, literature


Asian American Studies | Comparative Literature | Poetry


The point maintained by students and scholars of Asian American literature is that it has been in existence since the 1890s, with the publication of poems by Sadakichi Hartman, and perhaps earlier, with the appearance of Chinese poems carved on the walls of the Angel Island detention center. Yet it was only in the activist 1960s and 1970s, during the demand for ethnic studies courses in universities, that Asian American literature managed to gain the respect and attention that has maintained and grown to the present day. The activist period might very well be described as a Lazarus-like "rebirth" of sorts. Indeed, a brief review of Asian American literary history within the last thirty years or so has shown an increase in literary productivity in Asian American writing, a rise in creative manuscripts, and an outpouring of critical texts to match, analyze, and map out the terrain of these manuscripts. This increase in productivity is matched with a rising popular reception among the American readership: Li-Young Lee's The City in Which I Love You was awarded the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Writers such as Garrett Hongo and Marylin Chin have also garnered national honors, as well as name recognition.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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