KCYoder's Religious Diversity Journal

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Week 1 Reading Responses

"After all, it was only our life, our life and its forgetting." Li-Young Lee's "For A New Citizen of These United States" is composed in a confrontational kind of style. The content deals with the shifting of cultural environments and how forgetting is the central action in this kind of transformation. The tone of the work suggests that the speaker is resentful or at least critically contemplative of forgetting past experiences...the experience of escaping an oppressive homeland. "The Cleaving" appeals to me because it utilizes some figurative devices that I often employ in my writing. The relationships between eating, reading, the body, the inherent violence of change and how change is an ever-present thing. "As we eat we're eaten." The issue of paradoxical diversity and unity strongly emerges at the end of the poem, in that asiatic and semitic immigrants share in the same kind of cultural excavation while consuming the potent delicacies of tradition. But the immigrant must consume all--Lee's speaker writes about consuming Emerson's racisism as much as the brains of the duck. This mingling is the hallmark of the immigrant sensitive to a culture that engulfs even as it is engulfed, where the borders are murky, and a new cultural entity seems to emerge.

This body of work seems to relate religious experience into a discourse of 'otherness,' of trying to consume and being consumed on new soil. Even if religion is not explicitly the topic of his work, the overtones are apparent in "The City In Which I Love You"; "and your otherness is perfect as my death. Your otherness exhausts me, / looking suddenly up from here / to impossible stars fading. / Everything is punished by your absence." This address to a lover incorporates a religious tone of wonder and grudging worship. This idea of applying a religious significance to a personal relationship grounds the narrator's paranoid otherness in this oppressive city environment--it is the reality that divines meaning in the chaos.


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