It’s Friday, and you know it!! Last week, I shared Li-Young Lee’s Immigrant Blues. Today I’ll feature another poem that talks about immigration as we continue with our bimonthly theme, Festival of Asian Literature and the Immigrant Experience. The Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Carol from Carol’s Corner.

When I was initially doing my search for poems that speak of the immigrant experience, I wasn’t expecting to find a lot. Today’s post features another discovery of mine: Adrienne Rich. As described by the Poetry Foundation, poet and essayist Adrienne Rich was one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Widely read and hugely influential, Rich’s career spanned seven decades and has hewed closely to the story of post-war American poetry itself. Adrienne Rich died on March 27, 2012. According to her son, Pablo Conrad, Adrienne Rich died of rheumatoid arthritis. She was 82. When I saw her picture, I saw a loving mother and grandmother (although not sure if she has any grandkids).

The first poem, Prospective Immigrants Please Note, reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s Instructions. I enjoy reading poems that speak directly to readers.

Prospective Immigrants Please Note
Adrienne Rich 

Either you will 
go through this door 
or you will not go through. 

If you go through 
there is always the risk 
of remembering your name. 

Things look at you doubly 
and you must look back 
and let them happen. 

If you do not go through 
it is possible 
to live worthily 

to maintain your attitudes 
to hold your position 
to die bravely 

but much will blind you, 
much will evade you, 
at what cost who knows? 

The door itself makes no promises. 
It is only a door.

I originally meant to share only one poem of hers, but in honor of her talent and contribution to poetry, here’s a second one called Tonight No Poetry Will Serve.

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve
May 26, 2008 

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon’s eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping 

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb disgraced goes on doing

there are adjectives up for sale

now diagram the sentence

Fats is the Assistant Manager for Circulation Services at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster, Ohio. She considers herself a reader of all sorts, although she needs to work on her non-fiction reading. Fats likes a good mystery but is not too fond of thrillers. She takes book hoarding seriously and enjoys collecting bookmarks and tote bags. When she is not reading, Fats likes to shop pet apparel for her cat Penny (who absolutely loathes it).

14 comments on “Poetry Friday: Immigrants, FYI

  1. This is an interesting theme. It is really really close to my heart.


    • Fats Suela

      Mine too. We are running this theme May-June, and may extend until the first week of July. Please check out our future posts related to this theme. Thanks for dropping by!! =)


  2. Thank you, Fats, for sharing these works by such a powerhouse poet. Glad you decided to toss in the second as well – I’ll keep turning that one over….


    • Fats Suela

      Hi Robyn! I didn’t know about her until I discovered her immigrant poem by accident. She is fabulous. Will feature more of her works in the future. 🙂


  3. What a poet! She says so much so perfectly…and you chose two very different poems thematically, she had such a range!


    • Fats Suela

      Hi Tara! Indeed!! I fell in love with her when I first read the poem on immigrants. Then I saw someone blog about her, and posted an excerpt of one of her poems. (Title of which I do not know, unfortunately.) I was browsing through her poems and you’re right. She does have quite a range. =)


  4. I, too, like the direct voice in the first poem.


    • Fats Suela

      Glad you liked it. It’s just so nice to read about poems that directly speak to you. =)


  5. I love that last part of poem #1, “The door itself makes no promises. It is only a door.” Immigrants take such steps & I am so admiring of their courage. What a twosome, Fats. I read & re-read the 2nd. Sometimes I don’t have any words, as clearly Adrienne Rich does.


  6. I feel as though every choice we make in life is going through a door of one kind or another! Guess what, Fats? I posted a snippet by Adrienne Rich today, too.


  7. I love this post a lot


  8. The door itself makes no promises.
    It is only a door.

    Wow, so true. And yet how many people around the world imagine all kinds of promise inherent in that door?



  9. Laura Shovan

    Hi, Fats. Thanks for posting these poems. I am a first-generation American, so immigration is a fascinating theme for me. May I recommend that you check out the work of Maria Mazziotti Gillan? She is a poet, but has also edited several anthologies about the immigrant experience, including “Identity Lessons” and “Unsettling America.”


  10. Poetry seems to be an especially powerful way of expressing the immigrant experience. I am reminded of the poignant poems about feeling alien in one’s own country from the verse novel “Aleutian Sparrow” by Karen Hesse.


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