Happy World Ocean Day 2024

Bluemind view (from Embarcadero & Brannan Street), San Francisco, photo by Genny Lim.

On this World Ocean Day 2024, enjoy a poetic quote by Rumi, and two photographs shared by poet/playwright/performer Genny Lim.

You are not
a drop in ocean
you are the entire ocean
in a drop.

Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī

تو قطره ای در اقیانوس نیستی ،
تو تمام اقیانوسی در یک قطره .”
مولانا جلال الدین محمد،بلخی

Genny Lim is co-author of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, the groundbreaking book about the immigrant poems written with the late Him Mark Lai, and the late Judy Yung. First published in 1980, the expanded second edition of the book contains 150 annotated poems with Chinese and English translations, extensive profiles of immigrants gleaned through oral histories, and photographs from public archives and family albums. An important historical document, as well as a significant work of literature, Island is a testament to the hardships Chinese immigrants endured on Angel Island, their perseverance, and their determination to make a new life in America.

This June, Genny journeys across oceans to represent the United States at the third edition of “Le Molte lingue della Poesia / The Many Languages of Poetry Festival 2024, taking place at the Roman Villa and Antiquarium in Desenzano del Garda in Italy.

The festival’s press release states:

“The intent, the deep meaning that lies at the base of the whole project, is to contribute to building a culture of encounter, relationships, exchange, acceptance. To ensure that diversity can be experienced as the lifeblood for confrontation, which is the basis of the process of peace and cooperation between peoples. The events will therefore be the place of encounter between different people, but also between a real place and a utopia, so that poetry, like a magnificent rainy day, can contribute to reducing the distance between heaven and earth. But it is above all the journey of imagination and desire, the landing not as an end but as the beginning of a new journey, which modern sailors make perhaps no longer on the water, but in the ether, to continue to meet again.”

Bluemind view of the Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero, San Francisco. Photo by Genny Lim.

Pacific Mail Steamship Company docks at the foot of Brannan Street. Paddlewheeler in the foreground is the Senator; Colorado in the background; trans-Pacific ships. 1864. Courtesy of UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

The crowds strolling up the Embarcadero heading for the Giants-Dodgers game Monday at AT&T park will be passing right by one of the most historic places in San Francisco without knowing it.

On the waterfront, where Brannan Street ends, is the place where Asian immigration to the United States began.

Asian immigration to S.F. started at Brannan St.,” Monday, June 25, 2012.

Prior to the opening of the immigration facility on Angel Island in January of 1910, Chinese immigrants arriving in San Francisco were detained in a two-story wooden shed at The Pacific Mail Steamship Company wharf at Pier 40.

Today, the Brannan Street Wharf includes a 52-foot long interpretive exhibit featuring the multi-faceted history and importance of the site to maritime shipping, Chinese immigration, and labor struggles that established San Francisco as the base for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Look for an excerpt of “Nostalgia,” Genny’s poem about Chinatown, on the Muni platform nearby.

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Poetry Plaque on Brannan Street Light Rail Muni platform
Poetry Plaque on Brannan Street Light Rail Muni platform