Rhapsody in Plain Yellow

by Marilyn Chin

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 330

Marilyn Chin's volume of poetry, Rhapsody in Plain Yellow, was published in 2003. The themes in the collection include Asian American identity (including Buddhism) and love. Chin dedicates the title poem "Rhapsody in Plain Yellow," to her late lover, Charles. Charles was killed in a plane crash in the year 2000, and Chin has devoted many of her poems to him. Chin was born in Hong Kong and received a Fulbright Fellowship for travel in Taiwan. Much of her poetry is concerned with immigration and interracial love. Chin also includes many biographical details about her family.

Chin suggests that love is independent of race ("I love you . . . no matter what your race, your sex, your color"). She also makes reference to Buddhist culture ("amaduofu, amaduofu"). Like many of the Modernist poets (such as E. E. Cummings and T. S. Eliot), Chin experiments with the structure and layout of the text on her page. For examples, sometimes her poems assume the format of a script ("Say:"). The title poem Rhapsody in Plain Yellow is devoted to her late lover, Charles, while other poems are devoted to her late mother and grandmother ("Hospital Interlude"). In "Hong Kong Fathersong," Chin paints a disturbing portrait of China. Chin is keenly aware of race, particularly her status as an Asian American ("You are a Chinese").

Love as a theme is inaugurated in the quote from William Carlos Williams (the stain of love is upon the world yellow yellow yellow"). Chin is especially focused on the romantic love that is lost to death.

Finally, Chin is highly self-reflective in her poetry. She frequently inserts herself into the poetry ("How could we write poetry in a time like this?"). For Chin, her identity is decidedly that of a poet. Poetry is admittedly the way for her to grapple with her heritage, her emotions, her family, and her past. In turn, the poems are treated as objects to the poet, and these objects help the poet cope with her losses.

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