Wild Geese Sorrow: Angel Island Chinese Wall Inscriptions

Poetry book reading by Jeffrey Leong
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The deep anger, sorrow, and loneliness of Chinese immigrant
detainees held at the Angel Island Immigration Station between 1910-1940 are revealed in a new book of translations by East Bay poet and writer Jeffrey Thomas Leong. The first new translations in almost 40 years, the poems of Wild Geese Sorrow: The Chinese Wall Inscriptions at Angel Island are sequenced to narrate the incarceration experience: the shock of arrival, lengthy stays from a week up to two years, humiliating medical exams, political outrage, and for some, deportation. Readers will learn of this critical period of anti-Chinese discrimination in American history, so relevant in the current political climate for our immigration policy debates.

Leong, whose own parents were detained at Angel Island, writes, “What purpose did these wall poems serve to their original authors? …their act of writing poetry was transformational; by taking hardship
and expressing it artistically, they elevated it to the archetypal.” He adds, “It is a poetry of resistance which documents the unbearable hardships suffered by human beings. But …also a poetry of resilience, persistence and perseverance, and eventually of the spirit’s prevail.”

David Wojahn, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet, calls these poems “nuanced, affecting, and informed by a haunting but astringent music.” The translator and poet Arthur Sze adds, “In a time of antiimmigrant sentiment, important reading for all Americans.”

Leong is a MFA graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts and has published widely in journals such as Bamboo Ridge, Crab Orchard, Hyphen and Spillway. His website and blog can be found at: jeffreythomasleong.com. During the 1960s, Leong helped found the Asian American Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, and for almost thirty years worked in public health and law for the City of San Francisco.

This program will also repeat at the following locations:

Sunset Branch Library - Thursday, October 11, 7:00 - 8:30pm

Main Library - Thursday, November 1, 6:00 - 7:30pm

This event co-sponsored by:

- Angel Island Immigration Station

- Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University

One City One Book is San Francisco's citywide book club.
In 2018, we're reading The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui.
Find out more at: One City One Book.

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