Tina Chang


Born in Oklahoma, poet Tina Chang moved with her family to New York City when she was a year old. As a child, Chang was sent to live with family in Taiwan for two years before returning to New York. She earned a BA at SUNY-Binghamton and an MFA at Columbia University. Chang is the author of the poetry collections Hybrida (2019), Of Gods & Strangers (2011), and Half-Lit Houses (2004). Her work has been featured in the anthologies From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (2009) and Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation (2004). She coedited the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (2008). Chang was the first woman to be named poet laureate of Brooklyn, New York. She has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Van Lier Foundation. She has also been granted residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives in Brooklyn. Source

My Father. A Tree.

Today, longing for my father, 

I saw a solitary bleached owl skim 

the dark grasses. It swept so low 

to the ground it might have buried itself. 

I did not know my father so how could I 

be lonely for that guardian?


When I was a newborn, I didn’t let

my father hold me. I cried in his presence

till my mother came. My father would shrug, 

lean into his high backed chair, to read the paper,

to smoke his pipe while he heard his wife

sing to his only daughter. 


In the woods, I summon him

and my eyes fool me as a dark haired

jay shifts a twig, or a stone rolls 

into the creek. I think I hear his footsteps

on the path, but it is only the oak

hip twitching to the afternoon’s cold wind. 


When I was born, he must have felt

the rupture in his chest, dark matter funneling

through his veins, and he must have known 

he would not be here for the rest but he ushered 

me into that brightly lit room, the earth

with all its lumen.


Father, I know you are here, 

the only place you must be, 

where the heavy branches 

lean into bright air.


I put down my sack to eat everything

I have carried with me. When I am done, 

the ants come swarming in to take 

the last of it, to cleanse the earth 

of abundance and discard.


Walking in these woods, I believe

that tall shadows and shifts of light 

mean that something is at work beyond me. 


Midway home and the redwood

are letting go their furious scent,

where you are the tree left standing

and I am this frozen salt flat, 

hemisphere of crushed snow. 





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Death & Loss




Literary Devices:


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered