Voices Old and New at the Wooden House – A poetry reading at the U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island, Sunday May 17
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and the Angel Island State Park will hold a poetry reading at the historic U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island on Sunday, May 17 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The Immigration Station was the point of entry for over one million immigrants from over 80 nations between 1910 and 1940. This “Ellis Island of the West” is known for the Chinese poems and other inscriptions written and carved on the barracks walls. Immigrants spent weeks and months undergoing interrogations to verify their legal right to enter the United States.
Playwright/Poet Genny Lim, author of the award-winning play Paper Angels and several collections of poetry, Winter Place, Child of War, and ISLAND: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island 1910-1940, will recite a few of the poems written by immigrants at the Detention Barracks, known in Chinese as “the wooden house” as well as new poems from her book, Pilgrimage. In 2007, she performed in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and in 2005 at the World Poetry Festival in Caracas, Venezuela.
Poets from Kearny Street Workshop’s P-Cubed, The Postcard Poetry Project: A Literary and Visual Exchange between Kearny Street Workshop and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop will also read original works. Debbie Yee leads KSW’s Postcard Poetry workshop. She is an attorney, poet and arts and crafts enthusiast. A Kundiman fellow, Debbie’s poems have appeared in 32 Poems and Barn Owl Review, among others. Her work will be featured in Best American Poetry 2009.
The KSW poets include Thy Tran, who writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and how eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world; Cathlin Goulding, a fourth generation Japanese American, whose essays and short stories recently appeared in I Saw My Ex at a Party (Kearny Street Press); Lisa Leong, a graduate of UCLA in art history and Asian American studies and writer for Asia Pacific Arts; Khoi Nguyen, the editor and founder of Gender on Our Minds; and Truc Nguyen, a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American queer activist and social justice organizer.
Several Bay Area leaders and scholars will read Angel Island poems. Assemblymember Paul Fong (D- Cupertino) was elected in 2008 and serves as Chair of the Elections and Redistricting Committee. Assemblymember Fong was a political science professor at Evergreen Valley College and a longtime activist and leader in the South Bay Asian Pacific American community. He is an Angel Island descendant. Supervisor David Chiu was elected in November 2008 to represent San Francisco’s District 3, which includes North Beach, Chinatown, Russian Hill, Union Square, Polk Street, and the Financial District. He is also the President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Carmen Chu was appointed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2007 and elected to represent District Four (Sunset and Parkside) in 2008. Prior to joining the Board of Supervisors, she directed the Mayor’s Office of Public Policy and Finance. Supervisor Eric Mar was elected in November 2008 to represent District One, which includes the Richmond District of San Francisco. Eric taught Asian American studies at San Francisco State University from 1992 to 2008.
Marin Community Foundation President Dr. Tom Peters, California State Parks Marin District Superintendent Danita Rodriguez, scholar Maria Sakovich and others will read poems written by Angel Island immigrants.
The program is free. Please bring lawn chairs or blankets for festival seating at the Immigration Station. Refreshments are available at the Angel Island Café.
Free, self-guided tours of the Detention Barracks and the new interpretive panels on Immigration Station grounds are available before and after the poetry reading program. Visitors are encouraged to read aloud the hundreds of poems carved onto the walls. English translations will be available.
Ferry service to Angel Island is available from San Francisco on the Blue and Gold Fleet, which departs from Pier 41 at 9:45 a.m., 11:45 a.m. and 1:50 p.m. Round-trip tickets are $15.00/adult and $8.50/children. Return service to San Francisco is at 2:55 p.m. and 4:15 pm.
To reach Angel Island from Tiburon, take the Tiburon ferry at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. The roundtrip fee is $13.50/adult and $ 11.50/children. Return service to Tiburon is at 3:20 p.m., 4:20 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.
For more information about the program, call 415 262-4429. For more information about the U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island State Park, call 415 435-5537.