cover image Hard Love Province

Hard Love Province

Marilyn Chin. Norton, $24.95 (80p) ISBN 978-0-393-24096-2

To read Chin (Rhapsody in Plain Yellow) in her fourth collection is to set foot in a land where death and loss are omnipresent and possess their own native tongue. “Any moment now,” she writes, “The diasporas will form a new dialect,” and they do. Bookended by poems for a lost lover, Chin’s collection is a high-octane elegy that mourns the beloved even as it implicates the mixed-up world the beloved has left behind. Chin transforms the haiku, no longer confining it to reflections on natural beauty, but turning it into an obliterator of identity: “Gaze at the charred hills,/ the woebegone kiosks,/ we are all God’s hussies.” This collection emphasizes stark borders between life and death only to strip them down: “My cousin calls him Allah my sister calls him Jesus/ ... I call him call him on his cell phone/ But he does not answer.” Put another way, “You could be a rich corpse or a poor corpse.” Yet, these poems are not consigned to the reality of the grave as destination. Chin shouts into the void, almost frantic, insisting that we “write pretty poems pretty poems pretty poems/ Mask stale pogroms with a sweet whiff of oblivion.” [em](June) [/em]