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Victoria Chang

Visiting Poet

Victoria Chang

Of Victoria Chang’s third collection, The Boss (McSweeney’s Books, 2013), G.C. Waldrep writes, “Victoria Chang is to the business world of 21st-century America what Julian of Norwich was to medieval European Christianity: a shocking herald, an empathetic lens.” A Guggenheim fellow, poet, editor, and children’s book author, Chang has written five books of poems including The Boss, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award, Barbie Chang (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) and, most recently, Obit (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), nominated for the 2020 National Book Award and named a best book of the year by NPR, TIME Magazine, and Publishers Weekly. Chang currently works as the Program Chair of Antioch University’s MFA Program and lives in Los Angeles with her family.


Select Poems

Sadness—dies  while  the  man  across 

the  street  trims  the  hedges  and  I  can

see  my  children  doing  cartwheels.  Or 

in  the  moment  I  sit quietly  and  listen

to  the  sky,  consider  the helicopter  or

the  child’s  hoarse  breathing  at  night.

Time  after  a  death  changes  shape,  it

rolls slightly  downhill as if  it  knows to

move  itself  forward  without  our  help. 

Because   after  a   death,   there   is   no

moving  on  despite  the  people  waving

us  through  the  broken  lights.  There is

only a stone key that fits into one stone

lock.   But  the  dead  are  holding  the

key.  And  the  stone  is  a  boulder  in a

stream.  I wave  my  memories  in,  beat

them  with  a  wooden  spoon,  just for a

moment, to  stop  the  senselessness  of  

time,  the  merriment,  just for a moment 

to feel the tinsel of death again, its dirty

bloody beak.

The Blue Dress—died on August 6,

2015, along with the little blue flowers,

all silent. Once the petals looked up.

Now small pieces of dust. I wonder

whether they burned the dress or just

the body?  wonder who lifted her up

into the fire? I wonder if her hair

brushed his cheek before it grew into a

bonfire? I wonder what sound the body

made as it burned? They dyed her hair 

for the funeral, too black. She looked

like a comic character. I waited for the

next comic panel, to see the speech

bubble and what she might say. But her

words never came and we were left with

the stillness of blown glass. The

irreversibility of rain. And millions of

little blue flowers. Imagination is

having to live in a dead person’s future.

Grief is wearing a dead person’s dress


About Victoria

Poetry Center Reading Dates: February 2021