Jook Songs – Creativity in the midst of devastation

by Sarah Pearl Heard

“Here, take a crane or a flower!” I am handed a shoebox full of petite, colorful origami creations and a program for the Nov. 13th performance by Jook Songs, Yale’s Asian spoken word group. I choose a paper rose and squeeze through a packed theater to sit in the front row. The seats are mostly filled with students of color, eagerly anticipating the show. What followed did not disappoint.

Each poet performed a piece roughly seven to ten minutes long. Each performer pulled me into a different story unique to their own experience. The worries they expressed were some that the majority of the audience could relate to: failed love, family disappointment, adolescent self loathing, and feeling out of place.

Teresa spoke about being the one to read her parents bedtimes stories in order to help them with their English, describing the difficulty of trying to live with “a foot in each world.” Other performers elaborated on these pangs of growing up in two cultures that are at odds with each other in a simultaneously hilarious, yet poignant fashion.

In a different light, Stephanie summed up her teenage angst, grappling with stereotypes during a time when “social inconsistency is cute.” Cathy extrapolated this mood, reconveying snippets of heated interactions with her (ex) white boyfriend and the dichotomy of a love that is battling power dynamics and privilege with each gesture of romance.

The show also grappled with darker themes. Another performer, KZ, spoke about the burden of carrying the struggles of her grandparents who migrated here with the haunting line “The memories that kept them alive are dying.” Karina similarly spoke about the burden of carrying the weight of her father’s dream throughout every aspect of her life.

Jook Songs serves as a safe haven for the expression of oppressed peoples. As stated in their program “Jook Songs has been a place of refuge for us. We offer support to the people fighting now. We also honor those who continue to create safe spaces and spaces of healing on campus.”

Grace Lee Boggs said, “A revolution that is based on people exercising their creativity in the midst of devastation is one of the greatest historical contributions of mankind.” Thank you Jook Songs for contributing to that mission and providing such beauty in the wake of devastation and for the lovely origami rose, of course.