By Lorenia Salgado
September 24, 2014 marked the kickoff of fall’s Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series with preeminent Chinese American poet Marilyn Chin. With the Department of English and Comparative Literature, SDSU’s Love Library housed the celebration of 25 years of SDSU’s MFA in Creative Writing program with the release of Chin’s fourth book of poetry, Hard Love Province.
The event began at 7 p.m. when Meagan Marshall, the director of the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series, introduced the featured author: “she always writes and teaches with purpose,” as an excited crowd of students, colleagues, and literature enthusiasts applauded to welcome professor and poet Marilyn Chin to the stage.
As she approached the podium, Chin addressed the excited audience, and to the pleasure of many, she took requests: “So, what do you want to hear?”
“Nocturnes!” “Formosan Elegy!” “Beautiful Moon!” –the voices of enthusiasts could be heard across a full room of attendees.
Chin initiated the event by introducing a brief description of “Formosan Elegy:” “this elegy contains hybrid forms…stemming from Eastern-Western traditions…it too can be read as a narrative, a ballad.”
She proceeded with:
“You have lived six decades and you have lived none / You have loved many and you have loved no one / You wedded three wives but you lie in your cold bed alone / You sired four children but they cannot forgive you.”
As attendees enthusiastically applaud, Marilyn continued with “Nocturnes,” from Hard Love Province:
“Beautiful moon the murderer begins to sing / The thief takes off his mask to smell the heliotrope / A junkie steals asters from a rich man’s grave / And spreads them on the modest mound of his mother / A lone girl walks with moonlit haste in the shadow of / the maquiladoras.”
Before reading “Brown Girl Manifesto (Too),” Marilyn took a brief pause to address the style of her sonnets: “it’s as though they have a hip-hop rhythm to them; with strong beats:”
“Metaphor metaphor my pestilential aesthetic / A tsunami powers through my mother’s ruins / Delta delta moist loins of the republic / Succumb to the low-lying succubus do!”
Marilyn then continues with a crowd favorite, “Happiness: A Manifesto,” from Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen: A Novel:
“The sun shines through the jacaranda trees, the purple flowers opening, opening imperceptibly. And it is only Donny and me, Donny and the feeling of him inside me.”
Marilyn paused to playfully draw the audience’s attention by adding, “I can’t believe I wrote this!”
Satisfying the last request,“How I Got That Name,” marked the closure of the night’s literary event:
“I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin Oh, / how I love the resoluteness / of that first person singular.”
A fierce female poet, Marilyn Chin isn’t afraid to semantically manifest different voices, emotions, and expressions in order to expose human complexities, vulnerabilities, and sexuality. Marilyn satirized such elements while at the same time making them personal and universal. This was certainly, an evening full of poetic vitality and candor! Thank you Marilyn Chin!
About the author:
Marilyn Chin is an award-winning poet and the author of Hard Love Province, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty and Dwarf Bamboo. Chin teaches in the department of Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.