Larry Li: “What Does American Mean to Me?”

International student Larry Li has only been in America two years and he is already writing phenomenal poetry. The 11th grader came alone to Southern California from China as a high school freshmen and has already written hundreds of poems in English since 2014. The depth and feeling of his work not only deeply impressed his English teacher Mike Sonksen, it has led his classmates to rally around his work and listen attentively every time he recites a new piece.

Larry will be sharing some of his work at the Grand Park Book Festival in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday March 11th with some of his classmates from St. Bernard High School. In the combined prose and poem piece below, Larry breaks down what America means to him and what his first day in North America was like.

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What Does American Mean to Me?


America is a trip for me. I take a train, and the train, the train takes my memories, runs away into the future, and I don’t know where it will stop. The train keeps going and I know it will lead me to the right direction.

America is a teacher for me. She taught me a lot about her. Through her I learnt language, culture and how to solve problems when I am in trouble.

America is a camp for me. I have to deal with everything by myself. Through this I have grown. I learnt to take my own business seriously. There are not always parents who will help me forever. Therefore I learnt to take my responsibility.

I don’t even remember that day,
I took my leave without delay.
There was no hesitation,
Then I started my liberation.

Just like every fearless young man,
I squashed into the airplane.
Just like a leaf drops from the tree,
I fly over the Pacific for my dream.

I’m a boat floating in a rapid river,
Cuddling myself to make me feel better.
After many twists and turns,
The boat is torn and tattered.

The noises in my ears are fading,
At the peaceful lovely school, I’m waking.
If home is the shelter of love,
St. Bernard must be my harbor.

What are you looking for?