A chronological examination of the poems of Cathy Song’s books would result, among other things, in an intimate autobiography and memoir. The title poem of the first collection, Picture Bride, winner of the Yale Younger Poets award for 1982, sets the tone and thematic direction for most of Song’s writing. Meditations and reflections on her family dominate her poems, and she celebrates the self with sensitivity and precision.
After receiving her B.A. from Wellesley College in 1977, Song graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Boston University in 1981. After teaching at various colleges and universities, she returned to her home in Honolulu with her husband, a physician, and her two children.
Song’s fascination with her own domestic history begins with the title poem of her first book, in which more than two-thirds of the poems pertain to her grandparents, parents, and siblings, as well as her husband and children and herself. The poems are recognizably autobiographical and recognizably written from a female perspective. The first lines of “Picture Bride” refer to the poet’s Korean grandmother, who came to Hawaii and married a Korean immigrant thirteen years older than herself, with whom she had been matched by photograph. Song also inserts herself: “She was a year younger/ than I,/ twenty-three when she left Korea.” At the age of twenty-four Cathy Song was working on her master’s degree in Boston and living in a world very different from that of the Hawaiian sugarcane fields.
Her proposed title for the first book was “From the White Place,” a reference to the art of Georgia O’Keeffe, which significantly influenced her imagery after she encountered the book Georgia O’Keeffe (1976). The five sectional headings in Picture Bride, beginning with “Black Iris,” are drawn from the world of art, but the title of the book selected by the publisher directs the reader toward Song’s ethnic interests.
Song was twenty-seven when Picture Bride was selected...
(The entire section is 843 words.)