11 April 2019

Poetry Thursday - a "snapshot poem" by Frances Chung

Found on Instagram - thanks to jenne.patrick

a flower lifts on Mott Street 
through window pane and 
oily morning
a flower turns to color
the sky with pastel softness
to touch the stones on the
streets that bruised
the knees of the children
the flower that defies
sanitation trucks
motorcycle noise
out of order telephone booths
and oven laundromats
that sings a fresh song
every dawning.

Frances Chung prepared her first manuscript in 1977,while living in New York's Chinatown, and her work reflects the struggles of living in a ghettoized neighborhood.
"In Frances Chung’s 40 years, she poetically, with a touch of sardonic humor, described the boundaries of NYC’s Chinatown from Canal St to the diverse culture of Lower East Side during the years of 1966-1990. She died in 1990 [from a brain tumour]. ... one posthumous book has been published by Wesleyan College and edited by Walter K. Lew, a poet and Korean-American scholar. He had total access of her two manuscripts to print this singular book entitled “Crazy Melon & Chinese Apple - the Poems of Frances Chung”. The book came out in 2000.
Her sharp wit encompasses the years of living in a confined, stifling community describing bitter hardships and taboo traditions that need broken." (via)
She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Smith College and taught math in New York City public schools. Chung published her poetry in numerous anthologies and journals and was awarded fellowships from the New York Times Company Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Her poems written in various forms, including forms which obscure the boundaries between conventional “poetry” and “prose”. This article contextualises and analyses many of the poems in "Crazy Melon and Chinese Apples". (New and used copies of the book are available from online sources.)


The "snapshot poems" in Crazy Melon, says this article, "powerfully confront the complex contradiction and tensions centered on identity-making in a dynamic space such as Manhattan’s Chinatown."
Here is a  recent visualisation of her "great american yellow poem", and here Mah-Jong Players has been translated into  Chinese.

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