The book Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, provides over 150 poems that were hand written on the barrack walls. Over 100 poems were copied down by two detainees Smiley Jann and Tet Yee. During their detention, they copied down these poems, which were translated in the book. According to the research, the poems were mainly written by the people from Cantonese village, which were in their late teens. These writers do not have more than school education. However, these people knew how to express themselves and their thoughts in the form of classical Chinese poetry. The outstanding poems were filled with expression of longing, literary illusion, despair, frustration, historical legends and anguish. These poems display immense maturity and wisdom that stays beyond time.
Some of the poems written in the book shows pain of separation from families and wives; others dwell on the debt, which was taken to America. The other poems reflects the great sense of love towards nation, others criticizing the unjust law of exclusion and regretting the weakness of motherland of being incapable of doing anything for them. Some of the poems also display anger and rage.
Most of the poems written on the barrack walls were firstly written by the Chinese brushes. The immigration officers at Angel Island order to repaint the walls frequently to cover the writings as they considered them as graffiti. However, the Chinese poets started carving the outlines Chinese calligraphy on the painted walls with their knives to bring out the impression of what they had written. Thus later the maintenance crew was given the instruction of filling the walls with putty before repainting them. Though the wall putty succeeded in destroying the carving, it also worked as the sealers, which saved the wooden walls from getting damaged. After so many years, the wall putty and paints cracked and revelled the carvings below them.
Except two poems, all the other poems are unsigned due to the fear of authorities. None of these poems were written by females, because the Administration building where women were kept was destroyed in the fire of 1940. The second edition of the Island includes four more poems found at Ellis Island and seven poems discovered at immigration station at Victoria, B.C (Courtney, 1956). Similar to many other literary works of Chinese poetry on the Island, these poems also seem to be the unpolished and rough works but express the similar expression of pain and grief. The collection of Chinese poetry from Angel Island, Ellis Island, and Victoria, B. C. presents the first literary work of Chinese in North America. The poignant and heartfelt sentiments are expressed in these poems with simplicity of language and determination has never been seen before in literature of Chinese America. The poetries narrate the trauma and humiliation suffered by the racist system of immigration.