When my group was discussing the poem “Chi” last class, I had mentioned how the word chi is Bangla/Bengali meant disgusting or an expression of showing how a person has brought on shame. I thought it was really interesting to include the phrase Chi, even though the author probably did not know its meaning in Bangla, just in general how I connected with it.

My group also talked about how the vocabulary portion of the poem gave definitions of the different “chi”s and it made me think about how it exemplifies the ways in which a woman should act. For instance chi. means thank you but chi? means may I please.

When I read the phrase section of the poem, my first thoughts were about exotism. The lines “teach me to play dumb play dead to say no name but my own,” and “as if I could rot as if they didn’t make us to last & last,” made me think about Asian women are exotized. That Asian women are precious little things that are to be treasured and saved. Especially the last line about not making them to last, it reminded me of the theme of damsel in distress. It is as if Asian women need help all the time and need to be saved–which also points back at who Chi is, a Chinese manga character that is salvaged by the protagonist.

What about you all? What did you guys think while reading this poem?

What I thought when I read Chi

One thought on “What I thought when I read Chi

  • October 11, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    I think your connection to the word is super interesting! I did actually consider looking into different translations/interpretations of the word chi after reading the poem because it felt like it was hinting that the we should. My immediate associations with the word were ch’i/qi the philosophical concept (which I believe is rooted in Chinese culture but has since spread) and chi the personal spirit in Igbo culture. I didn’t necessarily make an effort to understand the poem through either of those lenses, but I also don’t think it would be hard to.
    Having said all that, I read the poem as analyzing exoticism, too. I also made a point in small group about the way in which the transition from Translation to Conjugation left me feeling like the mix of words other than chi was an effort to show some of the ways in which we as readers definitely want to try and understand/hear what is being said and so we’re left trying to find these words we understand in the language that we don’t speak. Especially because Voice had such tones of fetishization and patronization, you’re inclined to want her to have/gain/regain autonomy and voice and control.

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