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Poems Explication: Works by Rita Wong

Canola Queasy

It is not easy to create an educative and interesting eco-poem to support the chosen position and help the reader to understand how unfair or unpleasant human activities may be. In her Canola Queasy, Wong underlines the importance of environmental pollution and human direct participation in it and makes it the main theme in her poem. She chooses this theme to ask several questions to the reader and prove that the evolution of the human mind is not always characterized by positive outcomes.

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She uses personalization at the beginning of the poem calling human attempts to improve life as vulture which gathers around the tables or at the hospitals. She benefits from using the pun and saying that human “protein mass” can become a “protein mess” as a result of the mistakes made by people. It shows how weak the edge between absurdity and a true sense of human life.


Wong’s poem Trip may be understood in a variety of ways as the author provides the reader with a chance to use personal imagination and enjoy several poetic devices used in the poem. The main theme of the poem is human life and its connection to nature. A person comes to this world where nature has been already existed and set its own rules and conditions. A person is a guest on the planet where “red beans” or some other grains may be found.

Nature is represented through its components, and such a bright and excellent example of synecdoche shows how Wong is successful at using a variety of literary devices to disclose the theme chosen. The image of nature and human interference helps to understand that there are many things a person has to respect in his/her life and treat all of them properly.

The Girl Who Ate Rice almost Every Day

The peculiar feature of the poem The Girl Who Ate Rice almost Every Day is the desire to involve as many readers as possible in the discussion of genetically modified food using the material offered by the US patent database. Though the author does not make use of some special literary devices, the main theme of the poem is properly disclosed: the example from life described by the author demonstrates how human activities may spoil nature and the conditions under which people have to live may be also worsening.

The image of genetically modified rice introduces all the products which are modified as a result of people’s activities. Wong wants to explain that even properly chosen products and food do not prevent people against the harmful impact on modifications that are promoted daily. People create traps themselves and then suffer from the results of their harmful activities.

Nervous Organism

The poem under consideration is another powerful idea offered by Rita Wong in her collection Forage. Nervous Organism describes the results of human activities that are disclosed in several word remixes such as “jelly” or “fish taco”. Food technology may be improved in a variety of ways, still, people are not always able to control the results of their activities which end with such “jellypoes”.

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Of course, it is interesting and worthwhile to contribute to the sphere of food technology, science, and healthcare. Still, the desire to create something new that is hardly safe should not guide a person, and this is the main message of the poem. The author’s goal is to make the reader believe that something wrong happens on the earth, and people’s participation is evident. This is why people can consider their mistakes and improve the quality of their lives.

Perverse Subsidies

In this poem, the image of garbage is perfectly used by Wong to explain how human activities and intentions to improve the quality of life are dangerous for the environment they live in. Sometimes, it is not an easy thing to understand how poor the treatment of people to everything that surrounds them can be. The image of garbage proves that people are not always able to recognize their mistakes, this is why they accept their activities as a kind of good contribution.

Though Perverse Subsidies is not too long, it leaves some perspectives for the reader to evaluate. The main theme is that people should take responsibility for each idea offered and action done, and the author amazingly discloses it to the reader. Garbage is not the only possible outcome of human activities, and people may take some actions to understand whether their skills are enough to improve their future.

Sort by Day, Burn by Night

Computers are regarded to be an integral part of our everyday life. Using them every day, people hardly focus on the fact of how these technologies are made. In her Sort by Day, Burn by Night, Wong introduces a new perspective of global development and the dangers of activities made by people. The idea to liberate some recyclable metals to turn them into a kind of acid sludge is not new, still, it is rather dangerous if people understand that they agree to use this acid sludge in the form of laptops, personal computers, etc. And the chosen image of the village Guiyu helps to understand that danger to human life may have different faces but still, it does have one unpleasant essence that defines the quality of life.

Chinese School Dropout

Talking about the environment and the challenges created by people, it is necessary to pay enough attention to the ways of how people may contribute to the development of their land. The point is that there are several different languages spoken around the world, and it is not easy for people of different nations to find the required contact. This is the main theme in Wong’s Chinese School Dropout. The author admits that people want to make something to improve the conditions under which they have to live, still, language diversity is a huge challenge to be overcome. The use of rhyme in the poem shows that it is possible to use correct words and pronounce them appropriately, still, it is hard to be sure that they are clear to everyone.

After “The Stars” by Ping Hsin

Human life is full of numerous challenges, contests, and experiments as a result of which people may define the level of their maturity and the possibility to cope with their functions. After “The Stars” by Ping Hsin is the poem by Wong, where she tries to explain that not all people are ready to accept the complications created by themselves earlier. She proves that human ager is the reaction of their inabilities, it is a kind of weakness that cannot be forgotten, it is a barrier that cannot be neglected. The use of synecdoche in the poem is a powerful decision to describe the whole situation using definite examples: human “apologies” become the possibilities to change and improve the situation and “organic boats” are the results of human interruption into nature.


The possibility to talk about many people and their activities without naming them directly is the key to the success of many of Wong’s poems. However, the example demonstrated in Reverb remains to be one of the most powerful attempts to underline the essence using general ideas, approaches, and hints. The use of hyperbole “hyper-capitalism” that is “deadly” for people makes the reader focus on capitalism features and evaluate its impact on human lives. It is not enough to introduce capitalism as a factor that influences people’s understanding of the world. It seems to be more important to underline that current conditions exaggerate everything around making people being weak against personal demands.

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Powell Street

Ethnical and national diversity that is spread nowadays is a powerful aspect of the vast majority of Wong’s poems. Her Powell Street is the work where she uses the image of personal pride to explain how urgent the idea of diversity and personal identity can be for society. A person who fails to identify him/herself to a particular group is weaker in comparison to those who have already identified themselves.

Considering such priorities, it is possible to believe that the main theme of the poem is the importance of human differences and the possibility to prove personal dignity. A person is powerful in case he/she is supported by other people around: the idea of pride and desire helps to realize personal weaknesses and inabilities to contribute to social development. A constantly repeated image of pride in the poem is the most serious aspect of the analysis of the context.


In Resuscitate, the author makes use of metaphors several times to underline the curiosity, weirdness, and urgency of the theme discussed. The idea to use “mutinous juices” as the factor that influences human identity is powerful indeed; though not each reader can comprehend the main idea of the message, it is possible to believe that the author tries to gather several strange word-combinations to confuse the reader and demonstrate that people may regard a variety of things to achieve the goal set.

At the same time, Wong admits the possibility to resuscitate and improve living conditions. Each person has certain efforts, knowledge, and skills to overcome the challenges. The only thing that is needed is human desire and confidence in each activity. This theme should encourage the reader to believe in personal powers and take a step that could change a life.

The Dance of the Dutiful Daughter

At first glance, the poem The Dance of the Dutiful Daughter seems to be a little bit strange and unclear. It is hard to understand the main message of the author. However, it is clear that the author wants to make use of such literary techniques as wordplay to underline that meaning of each word is unique indeed, and people are free to comprehend the ideas in their ways. The author aims at using words that sound pretty similar to express the monotony of human life. She does not find it interesting to add some words, just simple nouns, and attributes with the help of which the essence may be identified. This is why, from a purely structural point of view, it seems that the author is bothered with the necessity to be simple still informative without using her imagination and skills.

After “I Sing of Lienta” by Cheng Min

After “I Sing of Lienta” by Cheng Min is Wong’s work that aims at describing the conditions under which a person has to live nowadays. Though several technological achievements have been made, people cannot be completely satisfied with the results got. One of the themes discussed is the fact that all human actions have their outcomes. If a person nurses a seed under some unstable or challenging conditions, it is wrong to expect that something good may appear.

This is why it is necessary to be careful with each idea offered, a step taken, and word pronounced to be ready to take responsibility for everything. As in many other poems, Wong uses synecdoche to represent how uncertain human success and achievements can be. For example “nitrogen” may stand for human progress in different spheres, or seed may represent nature as the main ground of human life.

Language (in)Habits

Writing about life and its essence is always an interesting and rather challenging task, still, Wong decides to contribute to the sphere of literature using her understanding of life unpredictability. Her Language (in)Habits is the collection of thoughts about real life, the connection of the human body to nature as well as to science and human emotions. The point is that language is a powerful means to demonstrate human abilities to promote changes.

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It is a chance for many people to demonstrate their efforts and skills. With the help of words, people can recognize the signals sent from the outside. The chosen literary techniques like personification when “sound becomes wound” or metaphor when ears are compared to automatic cars intrigue the reader and underline the possibility to define some unique approaches in the already experienced case.

Recognition/Identification Test

Wong is one of those writers who find it effective to involve the reader in the poem and make him/her an important part of the work. Her Recognition/Identification Test is an opportunity where she proves that human cognition is poor indeed. She chooses unbelievable wordplay to demonstrate the level of people’s knowledge. The vast majority of readers can recognize the words from the economic, marketing, or political spheres of life.

Wong manipulates human awareness: economic terms are easy to recognize in comparison to the items which surround people. Macdonald’s or magnolia, Sony or cedar, iPod, or pine: it seems that the first words in the chosen word-combinations are clear without explanations, and the meaning of the second words in the groups is not as clear as it should be. The theme of the poem is simple enough: human confidence is the main challenge of human awareness.

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