Task 3B: Composition and theme

In Task 3B you are asked to write a text in which you analyse “Poem 11” by Ouyang Yu and give your own reflections on the theme of the poem.

Composition

In what follows we will provide you with some points related to analysing the inner and outer composition and the themes of the poem.

Outer composition

“Poem 11” is structured as a 33-lines poem in free verse (no end rhyme). The lines of the poem vary greatly in terms of length and are defined by enjambment (when an idea is continued in separate consecutive lines):

they buy and read their own newspapers written in their own
languages
only in a brothel do they begin to mix (ll. 16-18)

...

Inner composition

In terms of inner composition, the poem presents the speaker who was born in China, playfully suggested through the mention of the years of the Chinese zodiac:

i am a man of multiple identity
born in the year of pigs
left the country in the year of chicken (ll. 1-3)

The speaker then accounts in a humorous manner the way he illegally immigrated to Canada, then to the US where he married a woman for a green card and finally to Australia in search for a “multicultural society” (l. 10).

However, the speaker was disappointed to notice that even in Australia, ethnically different groups preferred not to mix with other groups in their spare time, except for when they gathered in brothels:

people fall into groups according to their different nationalities
they buy and read their own newspapers written in their own
languages
only in a brothel do they begin to mix (ll. 15-18)

Finally, the speaker argues that he is a much better example of multiculturalism because he feels connected to every place he has passed through or lived in, defining himself as “a man of multiplicity” (l. 22).

The poem ends metaphorically, as the speaker argues that home is “where the heart is” (l. 29) and that multiple places and events define us and give us our identity: “ i am a man of multiple things” (l. 33).

The few notable figures of speech the poet uses to construct his poem are metaphors, repetition, humour, and irony.

...

Themes

The themes of the poem are multiculturalism and identity.

In the poem, the speaker describes his experiences as an immigrant who travelled illegally from his country of birth, China, through Fiji to Canada and then to the US where he married a “polish jew or a jewish pole” (l. 7), and finally settled in Australia.

In the process, he has become a “British subject” (l. 5) and a US resident through “a green card” obtained via marriage (l. 8). Through these examples, the poem captures the darker aspects of...

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