Author Archives: Shan Ching Wong


Part of speech: verb


1.  Behave in an immoral, corrupt, or sordid way.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in “Pop goes Korea” by Franny Choi, line 54, twelfth stanza.

“Seoul Bo-peeps and OGs/ ‘Til it’s all out of glow-tweets and clone sleaze”

Choi anthropomorphize the capital of Korea, Seoul, as a hip and modern city, but its ultimately just copying much of its behavior, good and bad, from other cities. As the poem talks about the rapid globalization of South Korea, she compares this growth to a sort of high which will come to a sudden crash once the nation reaches the end of it.


Part of speech: noun


1. A rousing or uplifting song identified with a particular group, body, or cause.

1.1. A solemn patriotic song officially adopted by a country as an expression of national identity.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in “Pop goes Korea” by Franny Choi, line 14, third stanza.

“And six sugarplum makeup stores all in a row/ One of which is just called ‘The Face Shop’/ All of which are blasting the same Top 40 super-synth laser fantasy playground anthem”

What Choi is referencing as “Top 40 super-synth laser fantasy playground anthem” isn’t simply just any top 40 music, but specifically the top 40 music in Korea, which is usually Korean pop, or K-pop.  The poem examines the rapid commercialization and globalization of Korean culture, which arguably gained traction due to the popularity of K-pop, still one of the most popular Korean entertainment consumed worldwide. Choi compares K-pop to an anthem since it is one of the widest known representation of modern Korea, it might as well be what the new nation identifies with.


Part of speech: noun


1. Required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible.

2.  Able to be explained or understood.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in “Field Trip to the Museum of Human History” by Franny Choi, line 17, ninth stanza

“In place of modern-day accountability practices,/ the institution known as “police” kept order”

The poem explores police brutality through the view of people raised in a society where polices do not exist. Choi only references what replaced the police’s role of law enforcement as “accountability practices”.While vague, it suggests that the system revolves around people holding themselves accountable for their wrongdoings rather than an institution like the police.


Part of speech: noun

Definition:  A police officer’s truncheon.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in “Field Trip to the Museum of Human History” by Franny Choi, line 9, fifth stanza

a “nightstick,” so called for its use/ in extinguishing the lights in one’s eyes.”

I don’t have much experience with law enforcement so didn’t know what a night stick was. I first assumed the word nightstick meant a flashlight or some sort of device used to blind people by the context of the poem. Knowing it’s actually another word for the club policemen carries give the following line a much darker context since its not speaking of policemen blinding people literally, but explaining how they would “knock someone’s light out”, beat them till they were unconscious.


Part of speech: noun

Definition: The process of claiming something back or of reasserting a right.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in “Hair” by Elizabeth Acevedo, line 19

“Hair, a reclamation.”

Acevedo’s poem revolves around the wider topic of racial aggression and view and reveals how small these offenses by talking about one topic, her hair. She speaks of how black hair, specifically her kinky curls,  are seen as wild and something to be fixed while revealing the wider cultural issue that lead to these view such as how black people are pressured to ‘whiten’ themselves. So when Acevedo says “Hair, a reclamation” she means she’s asserting her pride towards her hair and asserting her position against racist offenses that claims her hair is something that needs to be fixed.


Part of speech: verb

Definition: Give a new name to.

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Found in Franny Choi’s “Choi Jeong min”, line 15, eighth stanza

“my father ran through all his possible rechristenings — / ian, isaac, ivan — and we laughed at each one,”

I first thought that rechristening might’ve meant her father converting to Christianity and trying to choose a baptismal name that will also be his English name. Most definition I found don’t say rechristening is explicitly something baptist/christian, but I think Choi’s use of the word is still deliberate. Despite what religion her father follows, she’s comparing his decision of an English name to be as heavy and grand as a baptism because the name he chooses will be what he goes by in his new life in a western country, much like how baptisms represents a new life under God to christian converts.

Choi (최)

Part of speech: Noun

Definition: A governor who oversees the land and the mountain.

Source: Wikipedia

This word is found in Franny Choi’s “Choi Jeong min”, line 8, fourth stanza

“i wanted to be a writer & worried/ about how to escape my surname — choi”

Knowing what Choi means doesn’t add to the poem directly, but I do know names in most East Asian countries carry cultural significance beyond linguistics. Going by that I understand that there are two meanings behind what Franny Choi is conveying, a desire to assimilate to American literature by not using her foreign last name and a desire to get away from the ethnic background and culture she were raised in because of internalized racial shame.


part of speech: noun

Definition: A boy who leads the animal or animals drawing a plough, a boy who drives a plough; (hence more generally) a boy from a rural labouring class, a country boy.

source: Oxford dictionaries

Found in “I hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman, line 11

This definition gives context to what Whitman considers ‘America singing’.



part of speech: noun

Definition: A powerful synthetic oestrogen used in hormone therapy, as a post-coital contraceptive, and as a growth-promoting agent for livestock.

source: Oxford dictionaries

Found in “The Child Bearers” by Anne Sexton, line 6

”mine pushed into gnawing a stilbestrol cancer”

I first thought Stilbestrol was some sort of cancer as it was used as a descriptive in the line, but knowing it was a type of contraceptive gives this line a new albeit equally as grim context.

Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton is an American poet and playwright well known for her confessional poetries that deals with dark and personal themes. Erica Jong states “She is an important poet not only because of her courage in dealing with previously forbidden subjects, but because she can make the language sing…”. Sexton began her writing career in 1955 with encouragement from her long-time therapist, Dr. Martin T. Orne, as her depression was worsening and Sexton had multiple suicide attempts. Sexton’s work would gain noteriety as she won multiple awards, most notably The Pulitzer Prize for her book “Live or Die” and an off-broadway production of her only play, Mercy Street. In 1975 Sexton committed suicide by Asphyxiation from carbon monoxide in her garage. Her daughter and literary executor, Linda Gray Sexton, will release her last works posthumous before working with Diane Middlebrook to write her biography, Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton. The biography spurred controversy as it was revealed that Sexton had frequently abused her daughters as well as sexually assaulted Linda. It was also brought light that Dr.Orne has tapes of his sessions with Sexton and released them for the biography. Though an admittedly dark turn of event, Sexton’s work are still widely renown and her works have inspired countless confessional poets to explore their inner demons.


  1. “Anne Sexton.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,
  2. Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Anne Sexton’s Life.” The Modern American Poetry Site,University of Illinois,
  3. Hausman, Ken. “Psychiatrist Criticized Over Release Of Poet’s Psychotherapy Tapes.” The Wayback Machine,