cover image Things That No Longer Delight Me

Things That No Longer Delight Me

Leslie Chang, . . Fordham Univ., $45 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-8232-3200-0

“I will always be fascinated,” Chang writes, “by details from my grandmother's childhood.” The verse and fragmentary prose of this debut describe her family's life in prerevolutionary mainland China and in Hong Kong. Many short poems react to heirlooms, to oral traditions, and photographs; in a concluding sequence set in the present day, the poet shadows her mother and grandmother “returning/ to China... ravenous, as if poised/ on a threshold,” each street stall “a Kodachrome/ from childhood.” Chang explores her heritage, and she reimagines lives with devotion and loyalty. One immigrant woman, presumably her grandmother, plays “countless games of solitaire... since your husband's death.” Chang also draws on international literary sources: the title poem takes its list form from the Japanese memoirist and courtesan Sei Shonagon, and one especially vivid page derives its form from Eugenio Montale. An allegorical sequence entitled “Serindia” (i.e., roughly, northwestern China) reaches for a spare elegance that reclaims for Asian-Americans the cadence of Ezra Pound's famous Cathay: “Having left my father's court,/ I live in the nomads' camp. I wear fur and felt.” (Apr.)