Miriam Wei Wei Lo
Throughout her free verse poem, Wei Wei Lo captures the complexity of having a hybrid identity (her mother was of Anglo-Irish lineage, while her father was Malaysian Chinese). From the outset of her poem, Wei Wei Lo foregrounds her view that ‘home’ is not necessarily just a physical place, but rather an abstract idea that means different things to different people.
Her struggle to derive a clear sense of self is reflected in the title of the first section, ‘!. One Day I Will Find It.’ In this first section, the poet conjures an image of a faraway, mysterious place called ‘home,’ wherein her Eastern and Western heritages have fused perfectly, and she is able to see her true sense of self, unobscured by the tensions that exist between her Eastern heritage and Western backdrop to her upbringing. She concedes that discovering this place will be difficult, but that when she does arrive ‘home,’ she will be protected from the negative aspects of those aforementioned identities, such as the poverty associated with her Malaysian Chinese heritage and the historical and contemporary exploitation done by her Western ancestors to people throughout the world.
The second section, ‘2. Without Warning.’ draws on intense and evocative Christian imagery to demonstrate the awesome power of language; ‘translating this corrupt language of my body, the dark, bitter words of my heart, into the pure language of that other place.’ It is important to note that Wei Wei Lo’s use of Christian imagery is inspired by her own personal faith. In this section, the poet depicts the experience of repairing her connections to her ancestral and cultural heritage through language as a spiritual experience – one that is removed from the real world.
In the final part, ‘3. A Place to Return To,’ the speaker returns from that spiritual world to her family home in Australia. The language used by the poet to describe this setting is in obvious contrast to that employed to explore the spiritual experience of part two; she details how her father was ‘born into a single room / that housed his whole family.’ That this section is grounded in realism and reality reflects the extent to which the poet has found a stable sense of ‘home’ and feels grounded by it. The ‘white jasmine rampant over the fence’ thus metaphorically represents how her sense of self flourishes as a result of that renewed understanding of what ‘home’ truly is.
The Cosmopolitanism of Multiculturalism
Wei Wei Lo’s exploration of the complexities of having a hybrid identity is rooted in the cosmopolitanism of multiculturalism. For her, identity is derived from her Anglo-Irish and Malaysian Chinese ancestral and cultural heritages. They are both equally important, though wildly different sources that inform her sense of self and her view of the world.
Turbulence of Assimilation
Wei Wei Lo’s difficulty with assimilating is captured through her abstraction of the idea of ‘home’ and her examination of it. We can chart her process of assimilation through the different titles used for each part, while the consequences are explored within those sections. Ultimately however, the metaphorical language of the garden scenes towards the end of her poem reflect that she ultimately views this otherwise straining process as an opportunity for growth.
“and the mulberry tree, that foreigner / so completely at home, growing taller each year.”
Visual imagery, Juxtaposition
Negotiation with and establishing of a physical connection to home
“An image so bright and complete / it can only be seen with eyes tight shut. As in prayer. / As in sleep - a dream that outlives reality.”
Simile, Anaphora, Religious imagery
Individual’s relationship with home, Connection and physical disconnection from home
“No children are raped there. / No one eats while others go hungry.”
Instability of home
“Into the pure language of that other place”
Role of poetry and language in forming cultural identity/understanding and home
“‘We’re going home!’ They must mean this place.”
Exclamatory tone, Juxtaposition
Consequences of assimilation, Connection and disconnection from home
“It will be a skyscraper, fifty storeys tall. / It will be the smallest, most picturesque cottage.”
Anaphora, Juxtaposition, Visual imagery
Paradoxical image of home
“One day I will find it / I’ll follow the smell of food: fried ikan balls, roast lamb, mangoes”
Olfactory imagery, Accumulation
Disconnection with home and culture