My knowledge and experience of poetry are very haphazard. I have read Yoshimasu Gozo but never Marilyn Chin before this collection. And I can see why Chin was drawn to translate Gozo: like him, she is a creator of effortlessly cool poetry, that works on many levels, and yet doesn’t collapse into the formulaic. I come from an MFA, where at one point I lost count of how many immigrant poets started singing the Star Spangled Banner during their readings.
Chin talks about the transient experience tirelessly, yet she never runs out of the universe to position her flux in. The poems, old and new alike, felt equally fresh, except perhaps for the over-indulgence in the word “vulva”, which was a definite time marker for second wave feminism. As I read the poems, underlining tirelessly, I felt like I was eating a thick, delicious stew with many unknown ingredients: a Sebaldian potency of knowledge and emotional reflection, that makes Chin’s verse so viscuous, strange and beautiful.
A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems by Marilyn Chin
Published by W.W.Norton in 2018