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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)

Turtle Soup

You go home one evening tired from work,
and your mother boils you turtle soup.
Twelve hours hunched over the hearth
(who knows what else is in that cauldron.)

You say, “Ma, you’ve poached the symbol of long life;
that turtle lived four thousand years, swam
the Wei, up the Yellow, over the Yangtze.
Witnessed the Bronze Age, the High Tang,
grazed on splendid sericulture.”
(So, she boils the life out of him.)

“All our ancestors have been fools.
Remember Uncle Wu who rode ten thousand miles
to kill a famous Manchu and ended up
with his head on a pole? Eat, child,
its liver will make you strong.”

“Sometimes you’re the life, sometimes the sacrifice.”
Her sobbing is inconsolable.
So, you spread the gentle napkin
over your lap in decorous Pasadena.

Baby, some high priestess got it wrong.
The golden decal on the green underbelly
says “Made in Hong Kong.”

Is there nothing left but the shell
and humanity’s strange inscriptions,
the songs, the rites, the oracles?

From The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the permission of the author.

From The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty (Milkweed Editions, 1994). Copyright © 1994 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

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
            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
The beginning is always difficult.
The immigrant worked his knuckles to the bone
only to die under the wheels of the railroad.
One thousand years before him, his ancestor fell
building yet another annex to the Great Wall—
and was entombed within his work. And I,
the beginning of an end, the end of a beginning,