“Are You Hate Speech or Are You a Lullaby?”
Marilyn Chin and the Politics of Form in Chinese/American Verse
This chapter elucidates the specific logic of Marilyn Chin’s diverse thematic and formal engagements, as well as elaborates their broader meaning within the context of liberal multiculturalism. More particularly, it focuses on the different strategies by which she has striven to represent elements of specifically Chinese culture and language in the process of setting forth her own “counterpoetics” of Asian American ethnic “difference.” For Chin stands out among writers of Asian descent in the United States as the poet who has most effectively and compellingly united an expressly oppositional “political” agenda with an equally intense and innovative attention to the signifying capacities of established poetic forms, as well as to the potential of formal experimentation more generally. While Li-Young Lee has certainly enjoyed greater popular (as well as critical) acclaim among contemporary Asian American poets, Marilyn Chin has thus far arguably produced the more innovative and culturally significant poetic achievement overall, at least within the terms of the currently hegemonic mode of “lyric testimony” amid the larger body of verse by Asian Americans.
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