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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)

Identity Poem (#99)

Are you the sky—or the allegory for loneliness?
Are you the only Chinese restaurant in Roseburg, Oregon?
A half-breed war orphan—adopted by proper Christians?

A heathen poidog, a creamy half-and-half?
Are you a dingy vinyl address book? A wrist
Without a corsage? Are you baby’s breath

Faced down on a teenage road in America?
Are you earphones—detached
Left dangling on an airplane jack to diaspora?

Are you doomed to a childhood without music?
Weary of your granny’s one-string, woe-be-gone erhu
Mewling about the past

Are you hate speech or are you a lullaby?
Anecdotes requiring footnotes
An ethnic joke rehashed

How many Chinamen does it take—to screw
How many Chinamen does it take—to screw
A lightbulb?

Are you so poor that you cannot call your mother?
You have less than two dollars on your phone-card
And it’s a long cable to Nirvana

Are you a skylight through which the busgirl sees heaven?
A chopping block stained by the blood of ten thousand innocents
Which daily, the same busgirl must wipe off

Does existence preempt essence?
I “being” what my ancestors were not
Suddenly, you’re a vegan vegetarian!

Restaurant is a facticity and
Getting the hell out—is transcendence
Was the punch line “incandescent”?

Was a nosebleed your last tender memory of her?
Did he say no dogs and Chinawomen?
Are you a rose—or a tattoo of fire?

From Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Copyright © 2003 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the permission of the author.

From Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Copyright © 2003 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the 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
            The prince speaks

Let me lower the curtains, my love
   Our last night together is brief
Let me straighten our wedding quilt
   And warm it for you, my love

Let me fold your nightgown, my love
   Let me unfasten your hair
Let me lift the veil from your face
   To see my bride’s last cry
poem
There was blood and guts all over the road.
I said I’m sorry, darling, and rolled over,
expecting the slate to be clean; but she came,
she who was never alive became resurrected.
I saw her in a dream…a young girl in a qipao,
Bespectacled, forever lingering, thriving
on the other side of the world,
poem
Today in hazy San Francisco, I face seaward
Toward China, a giant begonia—

Pink, fragrant, bitten
By verdigris and insects. I sing her

A blues song; even a Chinese girl gets the blues,
Her reticence is black and blue.

Let’s sing about the extinct
Bengal tigers, about giant Pandas—

“Ling Ling loves Xing Xing…