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About Marilyn Chin
Marilyn Chin won the prestigious Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the National Prize for Literature that confronts racism and examines diversity, in Poetry category. The Award recognized her most recent book of poems, Hard Love Province, published in 2014. Anisfield-Wolf Award includes Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison and Oprah Winfrey among its winners.
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A rich, illuminating compilation of selected and new poems from Marilyn Chin, "a poet of contradictions, poignant sentiment, beat-your-ass toughness, and unexpected humor" (Los Angeles Review of Books).
Spanning thirty years of dazzling work—from luminous early love lyrics to often-anthologized Asian American identity anthems, from political and subversive hybrid forms to feminist manifestos—A Portrait of the Self as Nation is a selection from one of America’s most original and vital voices. Marilyn Chin’s passionate, polyphonic poetry travels freely from the personal to the mythic, from the political to the spiritual. Deeply engaged with the complexities of cultural assimilation, feminism, and the Asian American experience, she spins precise, beautiful metaphors as she illuminates hard-hitting truths.
A Portrait of the Self as Nation celebrates Chin’s innovative activist poetry: her fearless and often confrontational early collections, Dwarf Bamboo and The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty; the rebellious, vivid language of Rhapsody in Plain Yellow; and the erotic elegies of Hard Love Province. Also included are excerpts from Chin’s daring novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, and a vibrant chapter of new poems and translations.
In poems that are direct and passionately charged, Marilyn Chin raises her voice against systems of oppression even as her language shines with devastating power and beauty. Image after image, line by line, Chin’s masterfully reinvented quatrains, sonnets, allegories, and elegies are unforgettable.
“The notion of home has always been elusive. But as evidenced in these stories, poems, and testaments, perhaps home is not so much a place, but a feeling one embodies. I read this book and see my people—see us—and feel, in our collective outsiderhood, at home.” —Ocean Vuong, author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds
Asian diasporic writers imagine “home” in the twenty-first century through an array of fiction, memoir, and poetry. Both urgent and meditative, this anthology moves beyond the model-minority myth and showcases the singular intimacies of individuals figuring out what it means to belong.
An uproarious debut that lays bare the complicated generational relationships of Chinese American women.
Raucous twin sisters Moonie and Mei Ling Wong are known as the “double happiness” Chinese food delivery girls. Each day they load up a “crappy donkey-van” and deliver Americanized (“bad”) Chinese food to homes throughout their southern California neighborhood. United in their desire to blossom into somebodies, the Wong girls fearlessly assert their intellect and sexuality, even as they come of age under the care of their dominating, cleaver-wielding grandmother from Hong Kong. They transform themselves from food delivery girls into accomplished women, but along the way they wrestle with the influence and continuity of their Chinese heritage.
Marilyn Chin’s prose waxes and wanes between satire and metaphorical lyric, referencing classical Chinese tales and ghost stories that are at turns sensual, lurid, hilarious, shocking, and surreal.
A fusion of east and west, high culture, popular culture, and ancient Chinese history mark this distinguished collection.
Marilyn Chin, with her multilayered, multidimensional, intercultural singing, elegizes the loss of her mother and maternal grandmother and tries to unravel the complexities of her family's past. She tells of the trials of immigration, of exile, of thwarted interracial love, and of social injustice. Some poems recall the Confucian "Book of Songs," while others echo the African American blues tradition and Western railroad ballads. The title poem references the Han Dynasty rhapsody but is also a wild, associative tour de force. Political allegories sing out with personal revelations. Personal revelations open up to a universal cry for compassion and healing. These songs emerge as a powerful and elegant collection: sophisticated yet moving, hard-hitting yet refined.
Winner of the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Prize for Poetry
From a poet of "dazzling longing" (Los Angeles Times), a stunning new collection of haunting elegies and playful quatrains.
Marilyn Chin is a poet acclaimed by Adrienne Rich for her "powerful, uncompromised, and unerring" poems. Dancing brilliantly between Eastern and Western forms, fusing ancient Chinese history and contemporary American popular culture, she is one of the most celebrated Asian-American poets writing today.
Chin's fourth volume of poems, Hard Love Province, is composed of erotic elegies in which the speaker grieves for the loss of her beloved. In "Void" she writes with the imagistic, distilled quietude of a solitary mourner: "It’s not that you are rare / Nor are you extraordinary // O lone wren sobbing on the bodhi tree / You are simple and sincere." In "Formosan Elegy," by contrast, she is that mourner, beyond simplicity or quietude, crying out for a lover: "I sing for you but my tears have dried in my gullet / Walk the old dog give the budgies a cool bath / Cut a tender melon let it bleed into memory."
Here, too, are poems inspired by Chin’s poetic forbearers and mentors—Dickinson, Plath, Ai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Tu Fu, Adrienne Rich, and others—honoring their work and descrying the global injustice they addressed. "Whose life is it anyway?" she asks in a poem for Rich, "She born of chrysalis and shit / Or she born of woman and pain?"
Emotionally nuanced and electric with high-flying verbal experimentation, image after image, line by line, Chin's spectacular reinventions, her quatrains, sonnets, allegories, and elegies, are unforgettable.