janet wong: handful of this, pinch of that

#18 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.


We notice each other right away.
We are the only two Asians in the room.
It does not matter that her hair is long.
It does not matter that I am fat.
I look at her like I look in a mirror,
recognizing my self in one quick glance.

Copyright © 1996 Janet S.Wong (A Suitcase of Seaweed and Other Poems, Margaret K. McElderry Books)

In a recent interview at the Teaching Authors blog, April Halprin Wayland referred to Janet Wong as, “a force of nature in the world of children’s poetry.” Forever brimming with ideas, quick to encourage others, and tirelessly evangelizing the reading, writing and sharing of poetry in different forms and formats, Janet is truly beloved by her readers and an ongoing inspiration to her peers.

Often, when reading Janet’s poems, I have to stop for a fist pump, my inner child shouting, “YES!” It’s so good to feel understood, validated and simply human. I love when her humor surprises me, when she takes something small and ordinary and turns it on its side so I can see it from a fresh perspective, and I always appreciate the genuine, authentic voice that proves she really gets it, gets you.

I’ve lived the truth of “Other” countless times. Is it better to feel invisible, or to stick out like a sore thumb, when all you want is to belong and be proud of who you are?  I’m glad this poem is there for anyone who’s ever felt like the odd man out.

I’m happy that Janet chose to share another poem from A Suitcase of Seaweed today, since it’s my personal favorite of her poetry collections. With razor sharp perception, she examines some of the differences between Korean and Chinese customs and holds them up to the American way of life. I laughed at “Rice Cooker” because I did the very same thing, and I could just smell those sheets of seaweed and taste that “Beef Bone Soup.” See why I like this book so much?

For now, though, let’s imagine we all have a Chinese grandmother to bake us these cookies. I loved them as a child, but ours came from a Chinese bakery. Lucky Janet!

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