cover image Obit


Victoria Chang. Copper Canyon, , $17 ISBN 978-1-55659-574-5

The exceptional fifth book from Chang (Barbie Chang) does not open with death, at least not in the way its title might suggest. It opens instead with a father’s stroke and the assertion that grief “is really about future absence.” The collection explores the newspaper obituary through prose blocks whose language moves between shuddering realism and more lyrical elaborations. One poem recalls: “After my father’s stroke, my mother no longer spoke in full sentences... Maybe this is what happens when language fails, a last breath inward but no breath outward. A state of holding one’s breath forever but not dying.” The sparser tankas about children and the future offer some of the book’s most exquisite and painful moments: “My children, children,/ today my hands are dreaming/ as they touch your hair./ Your hair turns into winter./ When I die, your hair will snow.” Chang’s poems expand and contract to create surprising geometries of language, vividly capturing the grief they explore. (Apr.)