Hard Love Province: Poems - Marilyn Chin

Dancing brilliantly between Eastern and Western forms, fusing ancient Chinese history and contemporary American popular culture, she is one of the most celebrated Asian-American poets writing today. Chin's fourth volume of poems, Hard Love Province, is composed of erotic elegies in which the speaker grieves for the loss of her beloved. Here, too, are poems inspired by Chin’s poetic forbearers and mentors―Dickinson, Plath, Ai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Tu Fu, Adrienne Rich, and others―honoring their work and descrying the global injustice they addressed...

~from inside front dustjacket cover





In this, her fourth volume of poetry (pub. 2014), Marilyn Chin ponders the theme of deep grief and mourning after the loss of one's beloved. She plays with the imagery of quiet moments, typically occurring during late night, moonlit hours while also exploring the sensation of simmering anger that is sometimes intertwined with grief. While in this mode, Chin also doesn't shy away from tougher material, such as the dark and morbid imagery that can play across the mind in moments of emotional fatigue. Here, almost inevitably, also comes the moments of fury & pessimism at one's chosen god. 


Chin gets creative with her format, putting together a mix of haikus, standard poem form, and flash fiction. In all honesty, I didn't love her haikus and I found the bits of flash fiction odd. Strong focus on passing wind and human excrement..why?! I fared a bit better with her more standard forms of poetry, though as a whole I wasn't in love with this collection. 


There were some choice lines that stood out to me as impressive, such as:


* "Something's lost, something's made strong.." from "Formosan Elegy"

* "What is democracy but too many things And too little time to love them..."

    from "Nocturnes"

* "A death blow is life blow to some" ~ also from "Nocturnes"



Beyond that, there's an eroticism to the writing that I personally didn't find all that well executed. Pushed past moving & powerful imagery into just unnecessarily crude IMO. But I will give Chin a nod for her impressive collection of euphemisms for men's (and women's!) down south regions! Also, a note on the poem "Kalifornia"...umm, just read the lyrics to Red Hot Chili Peppers "Californication" -- pretty much the same idea between them only more impressive if you go the RHCP route.