Visual Arts and Poetry
The Girl Powdering Her Neck by Cathy Song
Portrait by Kitagawa Utamaro
The poem Girl Powdering Her Neck was written by Hawaiian native Cathy Song. Cathy Song’s first piece of work The Picture Bride won her the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition in 1983. Song’s father was Korean American and her mother Chinese American. Her interest in writing began very young, when she would journal her families’ experiences. Her first work was actually about her father and mother, her mother was a picture bride. She is also well known for starting a program in public schools where children from kindergarten to high school could learn and work with poets. She has won several prestigious awards for her works, and is still living in Hawaii with her family.
The portrait was painted by Kitagawa Utamaro. Utamaro was well known and very famous for his wood block prints. Many of his designs consisted of Geisha or women in general. It is believed that he was born to the owner of a tea house, which means he would have been exposed at a very young age to the ways of the Geisha. He became very popular in France, especially among the impressionists artists for his ability to paint partial views, with light and shades.
This poem is about a young geisha who is preparing herself for her nightly outing. It is a poem about real beauty versus artificial beauty. In the poem Ms. Song uses natural settings as a way to describe the motions the young lady uses in order to prepare herself. It is a free verse poem, which usually means there is no particular rhyme scheme. It consists of 7 stanzas of very short lines, the longest being 13, and has a total of 52 lines. The woman in the portrait is dealing with her two selves, the one she is looking at in the mirror and the other that is trapped in this lifestyle. Although Geisha are not considered prostitutes, they are for the pleasure of men. They are used to entertain them from music...