by Li-Young Lee
Who Am I (And Am I Inside You?)
Our speaker has a few questions about some pretty fundamental aspects of human experience. Like, what's the relationship between body and soul? What's the connection between two lovers? And, perhaps most importantly, just who exactly am I? Asking these kinds of (often rhetorical) questions is typical of Li-Young Lee's poetry, and he sure doesn't hold back in "Immigrant Blues."
- Lines 14-16: If you're wondering how our speaker got into all this existential philosophizing in the first place, here's your answer. This rhetorical question about what his father really understood about inside and outside rolls right into his own issue with body and soul. It's just how we're told a rhetorical question is supposed to work! It's not meant to be answered, but instead it's supposed to make you think. Sure worked for our speaker, and for us.
- Lines 22-23: Depending on your definition of "the soul," it might not be necessary to call this personification. Still, because the soul is being referred to as a sort of abstract thing (that's not just a person), we think the term fits in this case. So what is the soul doing? It's disregarding space and time. As in: "Bah! Space and time! I don't pay any attention to them!" Of course the ability to regard and disregard is a human (or animal) thing – it requires a brain. So no matter how you define the soul, our speaker is lending it a human quality in these lines.
- Lines 28, 29: Okay, this time we can definitely call it personification. Our speaker attributes to his body the ability to be greedy, and to his heart the ability to be bewildered. You might also think of these as examples of synecdoche – the body and the heart are parts of our speaker, but he's using them to refer to his entire self. It is, after all, our speaker's greed and our speaker's bewilderment.