Rhapsody in Plain Yellow: Poems

Marilyn Chin

W.W. Norton & Company, 2003

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

A fusion of east and west, high culture, popular culture, and ancient Chinese history mark this distinguished collection.

Marilyn Chin, with her multilayered, multidimensional, intercultural singing, elegizes the loss of her mother and maternal grandmother and tries to unravel the complexities of her family's past. She tells of the trials of immigration, of exile, of thwarted interracial love, and of social injustice. Some poems recall the Confucian "Book of Songs," while others echo the African American blues tradition and Western railroad ballads. The title poem references the Han Dynasty rhapsody but is also a wild, associative tour de force. Political allegories sing out with personal revelations. Personal revelations open up to a universal cry for compassion and healing. These songs emerge as a powerful and elegant collection: sophisticated yet moving, hard-hitting yet refined.

“Impeccable form holds seething emotion as Chin...looks from East to West and back again.”
— Donna Seaman, Booklist

“These are poems of burgeoning praise and heartfelt vision for the new century.”
— John Gery, New Orleans Times Picayune