cover image Hybrida


Tina Chang. Norton, $26.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-324-00248-2

The title of Chang’s third collection signals a fusion of disparate elements, a hybrid that’s been seemingly feminized. This mélange appears across an impressive array of forms: prose poems, ghazals, responses to artworks (by Alexandria Smith and Kara Walker, for example), the several-page “Bitch” and “Creation Myth,” as well as verse that explores Chang’s personal history. Primarily, though, this is a book about the speaker’s son: her love for him, and how she and he negotiate his blackness in the world. In the opening poem, “He, Pronoun,” she writes: “I have a right to fear for him,// though I have no right to claim his color./ His blackness is his to own and what will// my mouth say of that sweetness.” The poem closes on the image of her son in her lap, a quotidian moment, but they “watch the door.” With more urgency than a news article could achieve, Chang conveys the fear and rage at the reality that the color of her son’s skin will mean she is unable to keep him safe. The title poem, subtitled “a zuihitsu,” is a collage of questions and observations about identity, which at its end suggests hope for the future: “Wilderness/ of the mind. But it’s changing.” [em](May) [/em]