Obit: Poems by Victoria Chang
Poetry | Contemporary | Memoir
Published by Copper Canyon Press
Released April 7th, 2020
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This was not an easy book to read.
Obit is a deeply personal collection of poems written by Victoria Chang about her grief over her mother’s illness and subsequent death along with her father’s stroke and dementia. It’s moving and somber. I had planned on reading this in a single sitting, but had to put it down and walk away a few times before I could read further.
Told in the form of short obituaries, she tackles the way grief makes you feel, the struggle of taking care of aging and sick parents, explaining grief to your children, and so much more.
One of the reasons I struggled so much with this collection is due to the death of my own mother back in 2010. Even a decade later (which honestly feels unreal), the grief is still a raw wound. These poems opened that wound and made me feel some of the same pain I felt all those years ago.
“Subject Matter” is one of my favorite poems:
Subject Matter – always dies, what
we are left with is architecture, form,
sound, all in a room, darkened, a few
chairs unarranged. The door is locked
from the inside. But still, subject
matter breaks in and all the others rise.
My mother’s death is not her story. My
father’s stroke is not his story. I am
not my mother’s story, not my father’s
story. But there is a meeting place that
is hidden, one that holds all the maps
toward indifference. Can pain be
separated from subject matter? Can
subject matter take flight and lose its
way, peck on another tree? How do
you walk heavily with subject matter
on your back, without trampling all the
Thanks to the publisher for the permission to reprint this poem.
There were a few poems in this collection that didn’t speak to me, but that’s true of any collection. It’s hard for me to recommend this collection to everyone because it is difficult. If you can handle it though, it’s a beautifully crafted and honest collection.