cover image The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty

The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty

Marilyn Chin. Milkweed Editions, $14.95 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-915943-87-6

Chin ( Dwarf Bamboo ) writes with a toughened lyricism that persuades us of the poet's firm life knowledge: she never imputes to experience (or poetry) a false or wishful glamour. Yet Chin refuses to sacrifice her sensibility to cynicism, either, though at times she is willing to acknowledge bitterness, contempt or disappointment as her lot. Instead, she seems to strike a balance between ideal and tatty, pure and spoiled, a balance that is literary and also cultural, considering her own position as one whose father, ``a petty thug, / who bought a chain of chopsuey joints / in Piss River, Oregon,'' named his Asian American daughter after Marilyn Monroe: ``And there I was, a wayward pink baby, / named after some tragic white woman / swollen with gin and Nembutal.'' Chin's habit of stalwart declaration gives the poetry a grounded force, line to line; and her imagery, simple and spare, lifts up those same lines. Directness and indirection can be tools of equal use, she shows, and though not all the poetry calls fully on them both, the work that does is unsentimentally courageous. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Mar.)