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Immigrant Blues

Immigrant Blues

by Li-Young Lee

Analysis: Form and Meter

Free Verse

This poem doesn't follow any strict form or rhyme scheme. Which means we can go right ahead and lump it into the great big category of free verse.

Still, while we're in a section called "Form and Meter," we just can't resist talking a little about the way the poem circles back on many of the same phrases. We keep running into: "It's an old story from" (lines 4, 6, 30); "It's called..." (lines 8, 10, 11, 31, 32, 34); and "at peace with" (lines 21, 22, 28, 29). Sometimes there are variations on these phrases, as in "It's an ancient story from" instead of "It's an old story from." Heck, even our speaker's question ("Am I inside you?") gets repeated! This repetition or recurrence of phrases is what we consider a formal aspect of the poem, and it totally reminds us of the repeated refrains we might hear in a blues tune.

So what exactly is all this repetition doing here? Well, on top of making the poem earn the "Blues" half of its title, it helps link together the different names and themes we encounter in the poem. Plus, between each repetition, we cover a little more ground, so we come back to those phrases with a different, even wiser perspective.

There's just one more thing we'd like to point out about the form of this poem. There are an awful lot of stanzas – sixteen to be exact. Most of them are three lines or fewer, which means that there's a whole lot of white space on the page. It might not seem like a big deal, but Shmoop thinks this is actually pretty important to the poem. It slows the lines down, and makes us readers pause and think about all these things the speaker is tossing our way. In addition to its bluesy mood, the poem has a meditative feel. We're given lots of time and room to think.

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