by Victoria Chang


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Notes From Your Bookseller

When tragedy strikes, so many people respond with "I have no words." The job of the poet is to show us that we DO have the words. How do you reply to grief without merely saying ""I'm sorry""? Victoria Chang's Obit is the most beautiful treatise on loss. She manages to capture various endings (life, memory, the world surrounding both) with an understanding that keeps us moving forward. To suffer the loss of a parent is universal. The actual experience is so deeply personal. Victoria Chang guides us between both worlds.

The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2020

Time Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020

NPR's Best Books of 2020

National Book Award in Poetry, Longlist

Frank Sanchez Book Award

After her mother died, poet Victoria Chang refused to write elegies. Rather, she distilled her grief during a feverish two weeks by writing scores of poetic obituaries for all she lost in the world. In Obit, Chang writes of “the way memory gets up after someone has died and starts walking.” These poems reinvent the form of newspaper obituary to both name what has died (“civility,” “language,” “the future,” “Mother’s blue dress”) and the cultural impact of death on the living. Whereas elegy attempts to immortalize the dead, an obituary expresses loss, and the love for the dead becomes a conduit for self-expression. In this unflinching and lyrical book, Chang meets her grief and creates a powerful testament for the living.

"When you lose someone you love, the world doesn’t stop to let you mourn. Nor does it allow you to linger as you learn to live with a gaping hole in your heart. Indeed, this daily indifference to being left behind epitomizes the unique pain of grieving. Victoria Chang captures this visceral, heart-stopping ache in Obit, the book of poetry she wrote after the death of her mother. Although Chang initially balked at writing an obituary, she soon found herself writing eulogies for the small losses that preceded and followed her mother’s death, each one an ode to her mother’s life and influence. Chang also thoughtfully examines how she will be remembered by her own children in time."—Time Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595745
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Pages: 120
Sales rank: 71,970
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Born in Detroit, Michigan to Taiwanese immigrants, Victoria Chang was educated at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, and Stanford Business School and holds an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She is the author of five books of poetry, including Circle; Salvinia Molesta; and The Boss, which received a PEN Center USA Literary Award as well as a California Book Award. Her children’s picture book, Is Mommy? was named a New York Times Notable Book. She lives in Southern California with her family and serves as the Program Chair of Antioch’s Low-Residency MFA Program.

Read an Excerpt


Language—died again on August
3, 2015 at 7:09 a.m. I heard about my mother’s difficult nights. I hired a night person. By the time I got there, she was always gone. The night person had a name but was like a ghost who left letters on a shore that when brought home became shells. Couldn’t breathe, 2:33 a.m.
Screaming, 3:30 a.m. Calm, 4:24
I got on all fours, tried to pick up the letters like a child at an egg hunt without a basket. But for every letter
I picked up, another fell down, as if protesting the oversimplification of my mother’s dying. I wanted the night person to write in a language I could understand. Breathing unfolding,
2:33. Breathing in blades, 3:30.
Breathing like an evening gown,
But maybe I am wrong, how death is simply death, each slightly different from the next but the final strike all the same. How the skin responds to a wedding dress in the same way it responds to rain.

Table of Contents


My Father's Frontal Lobe 5

My Mother 6

Victoria Chang 7

Victoria Chang 8

Voice Mail 9

Language 10

My children, children 11

Each time I write hope 11

Language 12

Victoria Chang 13

The Future 14

Civility 15

My Mother's Lungs 16

Privacy 17

My Mother's Teeth 18

I tell my children 19

I tell my children 19

Friendships 20

Gait 21

Logic 22

Optimism 23

Ambition 24

Chair 25

Do you smell my cries? 26

I tell my children 26

Tears 27

Memory 28

Language 29

Tomas Tranströmer 30

Approval 31

Sometimes all I have 32

You don't need a thing 32

Secrets 33

Music 34

Appetite 35

Appetite 36

Form 37

Optimism 38

I can't say with faith 39

To love anyone 39

Hands 40

Oxygen 41

Reason 42

Home 43

Memory 44


I Am a Miner. The Light Burns Blue. 47


Friendships 61

Caretakers 62

Subject Matter 63

Sadness 64

Empathy 65

The Obituary Writer 66

Do you see the tree? 67

My children, children 67

The Doctors 68

Yesterday 69

Grief 70

Doctors 71

Blame 72

Time 73

Today I show you 74

My children, children 74

Form 75

Control 76

The Situation 77

Memory 78

Doctors 79

Obsession 80

My children, children 81

My children don't have 81

The Clock 82

Hope 84

The Head 85

The Blue Dress 86

Hindsight 87

The Priest 88

I put on a shirt 89

Where do they find hope? 89

The Car 90

My Mother's Favorite Potted Tree 91

Similes 92

Affection 93

Home 94

When a mother dies 95

My children, children 95

The Bees 96

Victoria Chang 97

Clothes 98

Guilt 99

The Ocean 100

The Face 101

My children say no 102

Have you ever looked 102


America 104

I am ready to 105

My children, children 105

Notes 107

Acknowledgments 108

About the Author 113

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