Cover image for Crazy melon and Chinese apple : the poems of Frances Chung
Crazy melon and Chinese apple : the poems of Frances Chung
Chung, Frances, 1950-1990.
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Publication Information:
Hanover, NH : Wesleyan University Press : University Press of New England, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 177 pages ; 22 cm.
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PS3553.H7935 C73 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Two previously unpublished collections by an important Chinese American poet depict daily life inside New York's Chinatown and across the Chinese diaspora during the 1960s and 70s

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Before Chung (1950^-90) died, she prepared two book manuscripts of poems, naming them Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple. They consist of verse and prose vignettes of Chinatowns throughout America and in other countries Chung visited. New York's Chinatown, on Manhattan's Lower East Side, was her home community. She was acutely conscious of the peculiarity of Chinatown culture--the linguistic isolation of its elderly and newly emigrated, the tension between its denizens' culture of origin and the cultures that surround it, its never-ending individual and collective battles with racism. She wrote tersely and elliptically about this milieu and with laudable impersonality about events in her own life. She never ranted, but made her points with carefully selected details and bold irony, as when she began the first poem of Crazy Melon in Spanish: "Yo vivo en el barrio chino." Three poems appear in both "books." In rescuing from oblivion Chung's artfully provocative multicultural voice, Lew has wisely respected the integrity of her arrangements. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Chung died in 1990 at the age of 40, leaving behind several different plans for collections of her work. Poet and scholar Walter K. Lew (Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry) has chosen the two manuscripts of the title, which repeat several poems between them. In "Crazy Melon," the earlier collection, Chung captures something of the crepuscular underside of Chinatown culture in the '70s and '80s. As Lew notes in the afterword, Chung's speaker can be flaneur-like, composing poetic miniatures that at once participate in and conflict with the voyeuristic acquisitiveness of souvenir shoppers and amateur Orientalists ("the gypsy men with pocket full of holes/ count their slippery fistful of coins"). At other times, the poems pointedly describe some of the anger, anxiety and alienation of a "Chinese" in New York's Chinatown: "Neon lights that warm no one. How long/ ago have we stopped reading the words/ and the colors? On Saturday night,/ the streets are so crowded with people/ that to walk freely I have to walk in/ the gutter." While Chung's poems do not always display a great virtuosity, some of the later, more formally accomplished poems in "Chinese Apple"Äincluding a pantoum and several quasi-metrical lyricsÄseem to succumb to some of the exoticizing the younger Chung would have dismissed or scolded. Nevertheless, many poems are the product of careful attention to rhythmic and tonal effects, and recall the early Williams in their generosity, unorthodox line-breaks and beauty. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved