Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The themes most frequently associated with Song’s poetry have been those related to women’s concerns ( mother-daughter relationships, pregnancy and childbirth, family dynamics), or to art and aesthetics (Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, Utamaro Kitigawa’s woodblock prints), or to ethnicity (the travails of immigration, the stereotypes of Chinatown ghettos). “Stamp Collecting” is a departure; in this poem, Song makes a foray into the arena of world politics and expresses a view on the geopolitical forces prevalent during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

The comparisons and contrasts upon which “Stamp Collecting” is constructed derive from a certain view of the comparative economic status of the world’s nations. Song’s poem employs a north-south view of the world in which the developed nations of the First World and the Soviet bloc are of the north while the poorer, developing nations of the Third World are of the south. Song’s poem points out the inequities of such a dichotomy. Song forthrightly names Japan as an example of a nation of the north, while she is more circumspect in identifying others, merely mentioning the presence on their stamps of queens (such as Great Britain’s or Holland’s) or factories (such as the Soviet Union’s or Poland’s). Similarly, Tonga is overtly named in the poem as a nation of the south, while the Spanish phrase “Facultad de Medicina” serves to conjure up images of any Latin American banana republic...

(The entire section is 550 words.)