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SONG, CATHY (1955- ) Cathy Song's contribution to late 20th-century American poetry began with the publication of her first book, Picture Bride, which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in
1982 and made Song a new figure of great promise in the Asian-American literary scene. As the recipient of one of the more prestigious literary prizes in the nation, Song not only joins a highly select and influential company of former winners, such as Adrienne rich, W. S. MERWIN, John ashbery, and Robert hass, her sudden prominence also gives greater depth and dimension to what is called "emergent" or "immigrant" literature, an important body of work that has forced an expansion in the traditional canon to include texts by immigrants and people of color, such as Li-Young lee, Derek walcott, Leslie Marmon silko, Alberto ríos, and Lorna Dee Cervantes.
A Korean and Chinese American, Song was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in 1977 and Boston University with an M.A. in creative writing in 1981, and she returned to live in Hawaii with her husband, son, and daughter in 1987. Since her first volume of poetry, Picture Bride, won the 1982 Yale award and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Song has published three other books of poems: Frameless Windows, Squares of Light (1988), School Figures (1994), and Land of Bliss (2001).
Song's work shows a strong talent notable for its dense, intimate, and dazzling descriptions, its penetrating exploration of those subjects closest to Song's experiences—the intricacies of Asian immigrant family relationships and histories, the places and landscapes of her childhood, especially the rural plantation culture of Hawaii, exile and reunion, and the ritual of memory—and its engagement with various modes of expression—sewing perfect seams, preparing foods (alive with all the sensory sensations of taste, smell, sound, color, and touch), or decorating the world around us with flowers, light, clothes, and sounds. In her poem "The White Porch" (1982), Song asks readers to think "of the luxury: how to use / the afternoon." Her poems offer various, original, intensely specific responses to the luxurious possibilities of how to use our time. Song shows great skill at fusing form, image, occasion, and emotion; the ability to bring concentrated life to her world; and careful explorations of the contact and occasional conflict between immigrant and nonimmigrant cultures.
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