We nodded off during Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s State of the Borough speech and missed the news that Markowitz had finally named a new poet laureate for the borough to replace Ken Seigelman, who died last year. A Brooklyn Poet Laureate Recommendation Committee submitted finalists to Markowitz, and he picked Tina Chang.
Chang got her MFA in poetry at Columbia (“When my first book came out my mother didn’t understand any part of it,” she has said, “but she knew by instinct to be proud”).
She teaches at Hunter and Sarah Lawrence, is the author of Half-Lit Houses (“amazing lushness, melancholy, and affirmation” — Li-Young Lee), and has been published in McSweeney’s, American Poet, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.
Chang also served as co-editor of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond. She turns up at high-profile readings and may be considered a star in the small world of poetry.
While she doesn’t sound as far out as our candidate, Sharon Mesmer (Annoying Diabetic Bitch and Holy Mother of Monkey Poo), Chang has said in describing her teaching philosophy that “Danger, I believe, is every writer’s most necessary tool,” and that “words can be many things: shelter, foundation, as well as an exhilarating place from which to metaphorically leap.”
She’s got good multi-culti credentials, too, having founded an annual collaborative reading series of Asian-American and African-American poets. Chang says she endeavors to be “an ambassador and activist on behalf of poetry” and is already looking at outreach activities such as an “Adopt-a-Poet Day” at Brooklyn middle schools. You can read (and hear her read) some of her poetry here, including “Cutting It Down,” about Leon Trotsky and Frida Kahlo (“He sought a version of his life past border/where Frida floated above him, extinct in her shadow, her bed in flames”).