In The Trees Witness Everything, Victoria Chang reinvigorates language by way of concentration, using constraint to illuminate and free the wild interior. Largely composed in various Japanese syllabic forms called “wakas,” each poem is shaped by pattern and count. This highly original work innovates inside the lineage of great poets including W.S. Merwin, whose poem titles are repurposed as frames and mirrors for the text, stitching past and present in complex dialogue. Chang depicts the smooth, melancholic isolation of the mind while reaching outward to name—with reverence, economy, and whimsy—the ache of wanting, the hawk and its shadow, our human urge to hide the minute beneath the light.
Praise for Victoria Chang
“In this collection, the constraints of the waka, a Japanese syllabic form, yield highly compressed, surreal meditations on time, desire, and the movements of the mind itself. Chang’s poems, some of which have appeared in the magazine, document a practice of sustained observation and imagination.”—New Yorker, Best Books of 2022
“Utilising the waka, a Japanese syllabic form, Chang takes the titles of poems by WS Merwin as the starting point for her own observations. The results are some of the most dazzling evocations of the natural world I’ve encountered.”—Guardian, Best Poetry Books of 2022
“Working within the formal constraints of traditional Japanese poetry, Chang writes of aging, nature, love, death, and violence with an austere emotionality, creating stark beauty from simplicity.”—New York Public Library, Best Books of 2022
About Victoria Chang
Victoria Chang’s forthcoming book of poems is With My Back to the World (FSG, 2024). Other books include The Trees Witness Everything, Dear Memory, and OBIT, named a TIME Magazine, NPR, Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times Book of the Year. OBIT won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN Voelcker Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize. It was a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and longlisted for a National Book Award. She is the Bourne Chair of Poetry at Georgia Tech. Visit her at www.victoriachangpoet.com or on twitter @VChangPoet.