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.
About the Author
Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong. She is the author of four previous poetry collections and a novel. She is the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and a Radcliffe Institute fellowship, among other honors. Presently, she serves as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and lives in San Diego.
These poems have a fearless life on every page, moving big themes into language, and pointing to past silences. But for all its sociable music, this poetry is also a serious and moving meditation on an inner life. Not simply the inner life of the poet but also—as the title suggests—the inner life of the nation that poet recognizes. This work is poised over both the public spaces where art and ethics are made, as well as the private reaches of a self where—as the poems show—an Asian American woman can weigh both identity and freedom. Marilyn Chin is a major voice. And this is a book to be treasured. — Eavan Boland
Marilyn Chin’s poems excite and incite the imagination through their brilliant cultural interfacings, their theatre of anger, ‘fierce and tender,’ their compassion, and their high mockery of wit. Reading her, our sense of the possibilities of poetry is opened further, and we feel again what an active, powerful art it can be. — Adrienne Rich
Marilyn Mei Ling Chin draws on ancient cultural sources and at the same time reflects something wholly Western, urban, and contemporary—so that we have here two kinds of sophistication combined, in proportions uniquely determined by her strong personal sensibility. The results are strong with an authentic and captivating strangeness, beauty and offbeat wit. — Denise Levertov
I praise Marilyn Chin’s poetry! — Gwendolyn Brooks