A Poet a Day: Victoria Chang

"The Blue Dress"

A Poet a Day: Victoria Chang

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.

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.