Poetry News

A Review of Marilyn Chin's A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems

By Harriet Staff

On the occasion of the release of Marilyn Chin's new collection, A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (Norton), Maya Phillips reviews the book for the Academy of American Poets, where of course Chin is Academy Chancellor. The book reflects a career, writes Phillips, "of fiercely anti-colonialist, anti-xenophobic, feminist poems." More:

The selected poems show a consistent focus across Marilyn Chin’s books—each pairing the political and cultural histories of China alongside fixtures of American identity, accounting instances of othering, orientalism, and violent culture clashes: “We shall all be vestigial organs, the gift of democracy. / The pale faces, the wan conformity.” Chin’s vision of history is living, recognizable, with unique personality; countries are personified, performing their historical relationships with one another, as in “Composed Near the Bay Bridge,” and in her title poem: “I was poor, starving, war torn, / an empty coffin to be filled, / You were a young, ambitious Lieutenant.” Throughout, Chin delivers a wealth of riches: jokes and puns; poems as blues songs, mythic allegories, or letters; poems in translation and poems influenced by received forms (such as her “Chinese American quatrains” and “Sonnetnese” poem). Even on the lexical level, Chin indulges in a broad and varied understanding of what it means to speak toward and against various cultural traditions... 

The full review, alongside a selection of Chin's recent work, is at Poets.org.

Originally Published: October 18th, 2018