A self-described “hyphenated American poet,” Marilyn Chin was born Mei Ling Chin in Hong Kong in 1955. On her family’s immigration to Portland, Oregon, she acquired her Americanized first name in honor of her father’s idol, Marilyn Monroe. The history of this naming is chronicled in her poem “How I Got That Name,” but the story of a bicultural identity and the struggle with assimilation is the undercurrent of all of Chin’s work.

Her poetry – individual collections include Dwarf Bamboo, The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty, and, most recently, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow – is influenced materially, technically, and thematically by such diverse sources as the classical Chinese tradition and the epigrams of Horace. Chin fuses East and West, high and popular culture, modern life and ancient myth to produce a powerful song to her lost mother and grandmother. While she engages in an ongoing lament for the losses and grief of exile and assimilation, her work is also informed by a fierce joy and hope in the possibility of integration.

Chin has been honored with two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Stegner Fellowship. Her bicultural sensitivity led her to translation, as well. During a stint at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, she co-translated a collection of poems by her mentor, Aig Qing. Marilyn Chin considers the Pacific Rim her home, with family in China, Hawaii, and all over the West Coast. She teaches in the MFA program at San Diego State University.

Poems by Marilyn Chin

Beijing Spring

Hospital Interlude

Tonight while the Stars are Shimmering




    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2003