For one of her two senior theses, Lucy Chuang, a politics concentrator who is pursuing a certificate in the Program in Creative Writing, is producing an original collection of poetry centered on themes of belonging, social acceptance, intergenerational memory and her experience as a first-generation Asian American growing up in the Deep South.
As Chuang, born and raised in Duluth, Georgia, began to think about her thesis, she knew she wanted to use the language of poetry to explore the connection between the Asian American identity and nature. For the past year, she has worked under the mentorship of creative writing lecturer Monica Youn to develop a collection of 50 free-verse and prose poems that evoke imagery like fish, pastoral landscapes, rivers, cultural food and Chinese mythological figures. Chuang describes her collection, Kinfish River, as “an exploration of my own experiences with a river, but also the idea that a river is a connecting force of all different themes in your life.”
“Lucy’s poetry is immensely generative, packed with rich texture, surprising observations and twists of thought,” Youn said. “Reading her poems is to experience the world with heightened sensory perceptions and emotional sensitivity.”
As a recipient of a Mallach Senior Thesis Prize from the Lewis Center for the Arts summer funding program, she had planned to spend the summer of 2020 in Hawaii to explore Asian American relationships to the land. Changing her plans in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions, Chuang instead spent three weeks in September in a small, isolated cabin in Ellijay, Georgia, close to the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chattahoochee National Forest.
“It was a blessing in disguise. A lot of Chinese and Japanese poetry draws historically on mountains, rivers and forests. I really wanted to get in touch with that historical and cultural aspect, but also impose my own understanding of being an Asian in the South into my poetry.”
— Lucy Chuang
Chuang also volunteers as a student peer arts advisor for the Lewis Center, connecting with other students about challenges in pursuing the arts at Princeton as students of color, LGBTQIA students, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, students from religious minorities, recent immigrants, low-income students, and other underrepresented groups.
Hear one of Lucy’s poems or read a transcript and learn more about her creative process and desire to bridge the Asian and American experiences in a feature story by Jamie Saxon on the Princeton University news homepage »
Banner image by Denise Applewhite, Princeton University Office of Communications