Poet Victoria Chang illustrates diversity and despair

Poetry can be found everywhere; from the sounds of the sky, the colors of the world, and the faces we see.

For poet, writer and editor Victoria Chang, poetry is, “just a way to express what it means to be a human in the time that we’re alive.” 

The Good Thunder Reading Series gave Chang the platform to host a workshop, craft talk and reading Thursday at Minnesota State. 

“I can’t imagine a world without poetry,” Chang said. “I think it’s the most pure sort of way for people to kind of navigate their own emotional landscape throughout your life.” 

Chang’s work draws in diverse audiences of all ages and backgrounds depending on what they resonate with from pieces such as “Dear Memory,” “OBIT,” and “The Trees Witness Everything.”

“I have a lot of older people who like my poems that are grappling with grief and mortality,” Chang said. “I have a lot of younger BIPOC students and younger people that are always coming up to me, telling me how important it is just to see a face like mine that’s writing poems.”

Chang dedicates much of her work to describing various powerful emotions through hardships that many find relatable. 

“I think life can be full of difficulties and disorder and you know, all these challenges and I think that a lot of people have that feeling of wanting to express themselves when they have those emotions,” Chang said.

Her success from her writings as an Asian American has been inspiring for members of this community, and they have not failed to ensure Chang finds pride in her contributions to Asian American literature. 

“That’s been the most shocking thing to me, is that so many people will tell me how much my work means to them, and oftentimes they’re very young Asian American people,” Chang said.

Despite recognition from numerous awards and prizes, materialism is what matters least to Chang.

“People will show me the art they made, they’ll bring me gifts and videos that they made of their own collaging; those are the things I remember the most over the last few years,” Chang said. “One person told me that she was adopted from China and her mother, whose white, was behind her, and she asked her mother to drive her all the way over to see me read because one of the books I wrote, ‘Dear memory,’ just really spoke to her.”

Similarly to this character, MSU student Emily Zattoni admitted to this feeling after attending Chang’s reading.

“I didn’t know what I was walking into, but a lot of her poems kind of spoke to me,” Zattoni said. “They kind of made me sad, but they spoke to me, which is weird because I usually get so confused reading poems actually, but she did really well with explaining her story.” 

Throughout her years as an established writer, what Chang finds to be most admirable is her commitment to the art. 

“I think that for me, what I’m most proud of is that I’m still writing and I still love it as much as I did before,” Chang said. “It’s just such a part of who I am, it’s like drinking water or breathing air.”

Chang’s newest book of poems paired with the artwork of Agnes Martin, ‘With my Back to the World,’ will be published in 2024. 

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Victoria Chang’s forthcoming book of poems, “With My Back to the World” will be published in 2024. Her most recent book of poetry, “The Trees Witness Everything” was named one of the Best Books of 2022 by the New Yorker and The Guardian. (Brice Nyiringabo/The Reporter)

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