?Suicide Note? By Janice Mirikitani Essay, Research Paper
READER RESPONSE “SUICIDE NOTE” BY JANICE MIRIKITANI
Janice Mirikatani is the poet Laureate of San Francisco and a very accomplished poet. As well as being a poet Mirikatani is also a choreographer, an administrator, and a community activist. Most of her poetry deals with the after shock of World War II, and other violent and traumatic events. Her poems are meant to shock the reader, but with a specific purpose. One such poem is “Suicide Note” written in 1987. This poem was written about a female Asian-American college student’s suicide note which was left after she leapt from her doom window. The girl’s body lay in the snow, undiscovered for two days. As a student my reader response to “Suicide Note” was very familiar and hit close to home.
The poem begins with an apology to her parents for not being what they wanted. The student is saying how very hard she worked, and even harder for them, but still was not good enough. She then wishes she were something else, a son, something they could have been proud of. She imagines her life as a son. She thinks if she were a son she could have become all the things they wanted her to be. She believes had she been a boy she would be living a happy life making her parents proud. I think many student’s parents push them and try and shape them into something they can not, or do not want to be. Many students start out in a certain major because that is what their parents want them to do. Many students feel they may never live up to their parents standers, while others end up resenting their parents for all the pressure that is put on them. This is one of the reasons this poem is so effective it identifies with these feelings and created a very strong message.
The student goes on to apologize for the tasks which were not easy for her. She says each “failure, disapproval, and disappointment” was another “glacier, a boot print” that eventually became too much for her to handle. These disappointments were also the reason she continued to work so hard. It was never for herself but always to try and make her parents proud. The repeating stanza which begins in the third line of the poem is representative of the feelings of suicide, and the feelings of inferiority that we all feel but may not vocalize. These stanzas are her parents voice which eventually becomes her unconscious mind telling her over and over that she is “not good enough.” Each verse that follows is herself defining why she believes she is not good enough.
As this poem is ending the student is “sillied and dizzied” by her life. She is sacrificing her self, her women hood, which is so fragile like that of a wing of a bird. The student is making her window her alter in which to offer herself. She believes by offering her self as a penance she will be escaping all her pain. The snow burdens her wings, just as her parents burdend her with their expectations. The snow covers her body “ like whispers of sorries.” The student is so distraught and depressed that the only choice is to kill herself. She feels like her broken body and scattered ashes will speak the things she never could say.
Janice Mirikitani’s words in this poem are sad and her message is blunt. This poem has a way of shaking it’s reader into hearing speech and action. “Suicide Note” illustrates an individuals need to be themselves, as well as parents instinctual nature to want the best for their children, and how both of these things go completely wrong.