Q & A: American Poetry

Q & A American Poetry: Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin author photo

I am a Chinese American poet– born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. My poetry both laments and celebrates my "hyphenated" identity. I believe that my work is very ambitious in thematic scope and form and is both a delicate and apocalyptic melding of east and west. Sometimes this may mean breeding hybrid forms. Once I blended the epigrams of Horace with the Haiku of Basho and came up with a strange brew of didacticism and pure image, which made a powerful political statement. Also, I have been working on love poems with a strong immigrant discourse. In the Chinese American context– love always means assimilation. For when one falls in love one must completely destroy one's identity to merge with "the other" in a culpable, beautiful way. This is true on the surface level, perhaps. However, in a terrifying allegory– to assimilate into America means to annihilate one's mother culture, language, religion and to be usurped by a culture which is monolingual, monotheist and whose world view is tied to the vicissitudes of commerce. My work is seeped with the themes and travails of exile, loss and assimilation. What is the loss of country if not the loss of self?

Yes, I am an American poet, a hyphenated American poet, to be precise; and what is American about my poetry is my muse's indomitable conviction to hammer the rich virtues and contradictions of my adopted country into a fusionist's delight.

Published 1999.

More Q & A: American Poetry