Marilyn Chin on poetry and self-expression (via The Daily Princetonian)

“Poetry is ultimate expression. When we’re deeply hurt, we write in our little journals, right? A lot of magic comes out of those words. Much of that magic is poetry,” said Marilyn Chin, one of Princeton’s most recent faculty members in the Program in Creative Writing, where she serves as a Visiting Lecturer and Holmes Poet.

Chin, 67, said she had just decided to reread Toni Morrison’s works when she received a call from Creative Writing Director Yiyun Li, asking her to come teach creative writing on campus. Chin said, “It was like Toni Morrison was speaking to me. I feel her presence here [at Princeton]. I’m just flowing, in a Taoist way. Flow with the universe.”

Chin, a self-described “poetry geek,” has roots all over the world, in Hong Kong, Beijing, Taiwan, Portland, Iowa, and, most recently, New Jersey. Her earliest memories of poetry come from her grandmother in Hong Kong, who would recite memorized poetry while carrying Chin on her back.

“She had this deep memory and chanted all these poems. I heard poetry very young. It started coursing in army blood. I didn’t understand a word of it, but something about the music and the persistence of her voice became deeply ingrained in my soul,” Chin said.

Chin went on to earn a degree in Chinese literature before becoming one of the first Asian American women to earn a Master in Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, one of the most celebrated graduate-level creative writing programs in the country. Chin is a trailblazer: in addition to her MFA, Chin is a Fulbright Scholar, Radcliffe Institute Fellow, Holmes Poet, and professor.

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The Daily Princetonian | Marilyn Chin

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