During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.”
— Bill Moyers
After her mother died, poet Victoria Chang refused to write elegies. Rather, she distilled her grief during a feverish two weeks by writing scores of poetic obituaries for all she has lost in the world. In her new collection of poetry, Obit, Chang writes about “the way memory gets up after someone has died and starts walking.” Her poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituary to both name what has died (in this case, “The Blue Dress”) and the impact of death on the living.
OBIT The Blue Dress — died on August 6, 2015, along with the little blue flowers, all silent. Once the petals looked up. Now small pieces of dust. I wonder whether they burned the dress or just the body? I wonder who lifted her up into the fire? I wonder if her hair brushed his cheek before it grew into a bonfire? I wonder what sound the body made as it burned? They dyed her hair for the funeral, too black. She looked like a comic character. I waited for the next comic panel, to see the speech bubble and what she might say, to see what would happen. But her words never came and we were left with the stillness of blown glass. The irreversibility of rain. And millions of little blue flowers. Imagination is having to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is wearing a dead person’s dress forever.
Victoria Chang’s new book of poetry, OBIT, is out now from Copper Canyon Press. Other books are Barbie Chang, The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. She also edited an anthology, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation.
She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Katherine Min MacDowell Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship, a Poetry Society of America Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, a Pushcart, a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and other awards. Her poems have been published in Best American Poetry.
See all poets in the A Poet a Day Collection.