Angel Island Poetry

For National Poetry Month, I am posting poems from the walls of the barracks on Angel Island.

For today…

There are tens of thousands of poems composed on these walls.

They are all cries of complaint and sadness.

The day I am rid of this prison and attain success,

I must remember that this chapter once existed.

In my daily needs, I must be frugal.

Needless extravagance leads youth to ruin.

All my compatriots should please be mindful.Once you have some small gains, return home early.


Something that always struck me about these poems was that they seemed to transcend the Chinese-American’s immigration experience. Maybe the poems still resonate today because the reasons the people come to this country have changed very little over its history.

Which is amazing when you think about it. While our country has gone through profound changes over the past two centuries, what we offer to people who leave their home country and come to America, is relatively the same.

The sacrifices have not changed that much either. Perhaps it is no surprise that the emotions in these poems still resonate today.

You can read more in Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1920-1940 by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung.

Published by

Kay Honeyman

I am a writer and teacher living in Dallas, TX. Check out my first novel, THE FIRE HORSE GIRL or pre-order my second novel INTERFERENCE (Oct. 2016)

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