Janet S. Wong
the time I was supposed to have learned all about fractions and
decimals, I have known I would not be a mathematician. I knew, too,
I never would be a neurosurgeon, which my father once wanted me
to be. But I never thought I would be a poet, either. As far as
I can remember - and at least since fourth grade - I remember hating
poetry. I can't say, honestly, that I read much of it, but I did
not like what I read - especially when I had to read it aloud! So
why do I write poetry now?
Saturday in September 1991 I attended a workshop on writing for
children. When Myra Cohn Livingston, one of the speakers, began
to talk about poetry, I started to doodle and daydream, since I
knew I was not interested in poetry, of all things. But then she
recited the title poem from her book There Was A Place and Other
Poems (McElderry Books, 1988), and the next thing I knew, I was
blinking back tears. What a powerful piece of writing!
then I have taken Myra Cohn Livingston's poetry classes four times.
I have read thousands of poems, and written hundreds. I do not like
many of the poems I read, and I don not like most of the poems I
write. But when I stumble upon - or write - a poem I love, what
a great day! The poems I love to read are like "There Was A Place":
short, simple poems about family and everyday life. I like poems
that are not afraid to talk about painful things. I like poems that
make you laugh, or cry; poems that grab yo9u and make you read them
again; poems that make you think.
is, in a way, like shouting. Since you can't yell at the top of
you lungs for a very long time, you have to decide what you really
need to say, and say it quickly. In a way, too, I suppose, poetry
is like math. An idea for a poem is a problem that needs to be solved
- and for me, the fun is in finding an answer.
S. Wong was born in Los Angeles, the child of a Chinese immigrant
father and a Korean immigrant mother. She graduated from UCLA summa
cum laude with a B.A. in history and then obtained a J.D. from Yale
Law School. After practicing law for a few years, she decided to
devote her time to writing instead. Ms. Wong lives in Los Angeles
with her husband and son.
first book, Good Luck Gold and Other Poems, is a collection of forty-two
poems that reflect her experience growing up as a multicultural
Asian-American child. Her second book, A Suitcase of Seaweed and
Other Poems, is a collection of poems and prose pieces divided into
3 sections: Korean poems, Chinese poems and American poems.