poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She received a BA from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of Iowa.

She is the author of A Portrait of the Self As Nation: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2018); Hard Love Province (W.W. Norton, 2014), which won the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; Rhapsody in Plain Yellow (W. W. Norton, 2002); The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994); and Dwarf Bamboo (Greenfiled Review Press, 1987). In addition to writing poetry, she has translated poems by the modern Chinese poet Ai Qing and co-translated poems by the Japanese poet Gozo Yoshimasu. She is also the author of a novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen (W. W. Norton, 2009).

She has won numerous awards for her poetry, including the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship at Harvard, the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship at Bellagio, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Stegner Fellowship, the PEN/Josephine Miles Award, five Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan, the SeaChange fellowship from the Gaea Foundation, the United Artist Foundation Fellowship, as well as residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Lannan Foundation, and the Djerassi Foundation.

Her work has been featured in a variety of anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, The Norton Introduction to Poetry, The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry, Unsettling America, The Open Boat, and The Best American Poetry of l996. She was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS series The Language of Life.

Chin has taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and served as guest poet at universities in Singapore, Hong Kong, Manchester, Sydney, and Berlin. In 2018, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is currently professor emerita at San Diego State University.


Bibliography

Poetry
A Portrait of the Self As Nation: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2018)
Hard Love Province (W.W. Norton, 2014)
Rhapsody in Plain Yellow (W. W. Norton, 2002)
The Phoenix Gone, The Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994)
Dwarf Bamboo (Greenfiled Review Press, 1987)

Prose
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen (W. W. Norton, 2009)

Bamboo, the Dance

How free and lush the bamboo grows, the bamboo grows and grows
Shoots and morasses, fillies and lassies and shreds and beds and rows
O phloem and pistil, nodes and ovules
The bamboo grows and grows
Her release, her joy, her oil, her toil, her moxie, her terror, her swirl
Dig deeper into soil, deeper into her soul, what do you find in my girl
Thrash of black hair and silken snare, face in the bottom of the world
Bound by ankles, poor deer, poor sow, O delicate hooves and fascicles
Dead doe, dead doe, dead doe
Wrists together, searing red tethers, blood draining from her soles
O choir, O psalm, O soaring fearsome tabernacle
The bamboo grows, the bamboo grows and grows
Through antlers and eyeholes, O sweet soul, O sweet, sweet soul

Thin green tails, purple entrails, the bamboo grows and grows
She flailed and wailed through flimsy veils, through bones and hissing marrow
Nobody to hear her, but wind and chaff, a gasp, then letting go
They loved her, then stoned her, buried her near her ancestors
My mother, my sister, my soul

Shimmering mesh, a brocade sash, hanging on a distant oracle
Springboks dance on shallow mounds, echoes, echoes, echoes

From A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2015 Marilyn Chin. Used by permission of the author.

From A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2015 Marilyn Chin. Used by permission of the author.

Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. The author of six poetry collections, she currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
Yellow gold is meaningless
Learning is better than pearls
A woman without brilliance
Leaves nothing but dim children
 
You can hawk your gold if you’re hungry
Sell your mule when you’re desperate
What can you do with so many poems
Sprouting dead hairs in an empty coffin
 
*

Lotus: pink     dewlapped     pretty
poem

an essay on assimilation

I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of "be," without the uncertain i-n-g
of "becoming."  Of course,
the name had been changed
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea,
when my father
poem
Soak in a hot bath;
arrange my futuristic hair,
then, the futon & the cushioned tatami.
Cut orchids, cut fruit.
Set the table for plenty,
(but there is only one of me).
And here you come—
a cricket’s dance in the woods—
in a fog-colored zoot suit.
Your eyes are red & bleary.
I am practicing good