After her mother died, poet Victoria Chang refused to write elegies. Rather, she distilled her grief during a feverish two weeks by writing scores of poetic obituaries for all she lost in the world. In Obit, Chang writes of “the way memory gets up after someone has died and starts walking.” These poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituary to both name what has died (“civility,” “language,” “the future,” “Mother’s blue dress”) and the cultural impact of death on the living. Whereas elegy attempts to immortalize the dead, an obituary expresses loss, and the love for the dead becomes a conduit for self-expression. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.
"When you lose someone you love, the world doesn’t stop to let you mourn. Nor does it allow you to linger as you learn to live with a gaping hole in your heart. Indeed, this daily indifference to being left behind epitomizes the unique pain of grieving. Victoria Chang captures this visceral, heart-stopping ache in Obit, the book of poetry she wrote after the death of her mother. Although Chang initially balked at writing an obituary, she soon found herself writing eulogies for the small losses that preceded and followed her mother’s death, each one an ode to her mother’s life and influence. Chang also thoughtfully examines how she will be remembered by her own children in time."―TIME magazine
About the Author
Born in Detroit, Michigan to Taiwanese immigrants, Victoria Chang was educated at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Stanford Business School and holds an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She is the author of five books of poetry, includingCircle; Salvinia Molesta;andThe Boss, which received a PEN Center USA Literary Award as well as a California Book Award. Her children’s picture book,Is Mommy?was named a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in Southern California with her family and serves as the Program Chair of Antioch’s Low-Residency MFA Program.
ObitLanguage―died again on August 3, 2015 at 7:09 a.m. I heard about my mother’s difficult nights. I hired a night person. By the time I got there, she was always gone. The night person had a name but was like a ghost who left letters on a shore that when brought home became shells.Couldn’t breathe, 2:33 a.m. Screaming, 3:30 a.m. Calm, 4:24 a.m.I got on all fours, tried to pick up the letters like a child at an egg hunt without a basket. But for every letter I picked up, another fell down, as if protesting the oversimplification of my mother’s dying. I wanted the night person to write in a language I could understand.Breathing unfolding, 2:33. Breathing in blades, 3:30. Breathing like an evening gown, 4:24.But maybe I am wrong, how death is simply death, each slightly different from the next but the final strike all the same. How the skin responds to a wedding dress in the same way it responds to rain.