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About this poet

Tina Chang was born in 1969 in Oklahoma to Chinese immigrants. She and her family moved to Queens, New York, a year later. Chang attended Binghamton University and received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University.

She is the author of Of Gods and Strangers (Four Way Books, 2011) and Half-Lit Houses (2004), which was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop.

Chang is the coeditor, with Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry From the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008).

She has held residencies at MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Artist's Residency, Vermont Studio Center, Fundacion Valparaiso, Ragdale, Blue Mountain Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has also received awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, Poets & Writers, and the Van Lier Foundation.

Chang was elected Brooklyn poet laureate in 2010. She currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

The Future is an Animal

Tina Chang, 1969
In every kind of dream I am a black wolf 
careening through a web. I am the spider 
who eats the wolf and inhabits the wolf's body.
In another dream I marry the wolf and then 
am very lonely. I seek my name and they name me 
Lucky Dragon. I would love to tell you that all 
of this has a certain ending but the most frightening
stories are the ones with no ending at all. 
The path goes on and on. The road keeps forking, 
splitting like an endless atom, splitting 
like a lip, and the globe is on fire. As many
times as the book is read, the pages continue
to grow, multiply. They said, In the beginning, 
and that was the moral of the original and most 
important story. The story of man. One story. 
I laid my head down and my head was heavy. 
Hair sprouted through the skin, hair black 
and bending toward night grass. I was becoming 
the wolf again, my own teeth breaking 
into my mouth for the first time, a kind of beauty 
to be swallowed in interior bite and fever. 
My mind a miraculous ember until I am the beast. 
I run from the story that is faster than me, 
the words shatter and pant to outchase me. 
The story catches my heels when I turn 
to love its hungry face, when I am willing
to be eaten to understand my fate.

Copyright © 2012 by Tina Chang. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Tina Chang. Used with permission of the author.

Tina Chang

Tina Chang

Born in 1969, Tina Chang was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop for her debut collection Half-Lit Houses.

by this poet

poem

I opened the silver pronged evening and translated
the great song of the Industrial Age. Each night
I hoped it would tell a different ending. Each time
it sang a song, sadder than I would have imagined.

I heard it, not only when I put all my perspectives
away on shelves, until the

poem
When everything was accounted for 
you rummaged through my bag to find 
something offensive: a revolver, 
a notebook of misinterpreted text. 

I'm God's professor. 
His eyes two open ovens.
He has a physical body
and it hiccups and blesses. 

Tell me a story before the mudslide, 
tell it fast before the house
poem
I'm the one in the back of the bar, drinking cachaça, 
fingering the lip of the glass. Every dream has left 
me now as I wait for the next song:  Drag and drum. 
They'll be no humming in this room, only fragrance 
of sweat and fuel. To make the animal go. To make it 
Hungry.  After that there is Thirst. 

* 

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