My use of the term cross-cultural refers to poetry that arises from cultures and ideologies other than the hegemonic ones, which in this paper means African American poet Robin Coste Lewis’s 79-page long narrative poem “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” and Asian American poet Timothy Yu’s collection of parody poems—100 Chinese Silences. Inspired by Jahan Ramazani’s book about transnational poetics, this paper aims to challenge a mononationalist way of reading cross-cultural poetry by suggesting new approaches to do so. A mononationalist way of reading cross-cultural poetry has been influenced by the residues of a literary paradigm that assumes the binary of British and American literatures and upholds the accompanying white-centric values. The danger of a mononationalist perspective lies in a less-fluid reading of all literature and dismissing cross-cultural poetry’s agencies to represent themselves. Through self-theorizing frameworks and “reverse discourse,” Robin Coste Lewis redirects language and gaze to her metaphorical art museum to appreciate black beauty in ways different from the beauty standards normalized by Western art constructions. Similarly, Timothy Yu’s parody poems of Billy Collins’s orientalism-saturated poems ask for a more nuanced context to understand the discourse of silence and Chinese American voices. This paper compares and contrasts Lewis’s and Yu’s approaches to recontextualizing language and discovering fluid ways of questioning preexisting constructions. Through such comparison, I can better appreciate poetry’s power as a form of resistance. Poetry builds kinship and allows “imaginative citizens” to live in worlds without borders where residues of violence are exposed.
Level of Honors
summa cum laude
Xu, Lili, "Comparative Studies of Cross-Cultural Poetics: Robin Coste Lewis and Timothy Yu" (2023). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 182.
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