poem index


Nellie Wong

Printer-friendly version

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Nellie Wong was born in Oakland, California, on September 12, 1934. As a teenager she worked in her parents’ Chinese restaurant, and after graduating high school, she took a job as a secretary for Bethlehem Steel Corporation, where she worked until 1982. In her mid-thirties, she began studying creative writing at San Francisco State University.

Wong published her first book of poetry, Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park (Kelsey Street Press), in 1983. That same year, she served as a delegate on the first United States Women Writers Tour to China.

She is also the author of the poetry collections Stolen Moments (Chicory Blue Press, 1997) and The Death of Long Steam Lady (West End Press, 1986). Juan Felipe Herrera has said that Wong’s poetry “fuses a stark historical landscape with the deep passion for life that emerges from generations of cultural wisdom and generations of suffering.” Her poems often deal with issues of immigration, identity, and feminism.

Wong also edited Talking Back: Voices of Color (Red Letter Press, 2015) and cofounded Unbound Feet, a writing collective of Chinese American women in California. In 1989, she received the Women of Words Award from the San Francisco Women’s Foundation. She has taught at the University of Minnesota and at Mills College, and she lives in San Francisco.


Stolen Moments (Chicory Blue Press, 1997)
The Death of Long Steam Lady (West End Press, 1986)
Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park (Kelsey Street Press, 1983)

by this poet

Mama, come back.
Why did you leave
now that I am learning you?
The landlady next door
how she apologizes
for my rough brown skin
to her tenant from Hong Kong
as if I were her daughter,
as if she were you.

How do I say I miss you
your scolding
your presence
your roast loin of pork
more succulent, more tender