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Chinatown Romeo by Michael Chang


“I know not of power/nor of influence” Michael Chang writes in Chinatown Romeo, and yet, one begins to doubt this assertion as the book reads on, the influences make their subtle appearances, and the power over each line becomes resolute. Chang’s lexicon feels masterful as they navigate the sordid experiences of oppression while admonishing the bigoted world with metropolitan poise. Chang’s poems are here to dig their elbow into the complacency of collective memory, to interrupt the problematic discourse, to reclaim their own narrative(s), and to use some violent archetypes as punching bags along the way. “You can lie in poems,” Chang later states, which clarifies as much as it complicates what Chinatown Romeo reveals to us: perhaps, in a moment of urgency, the quickest way to the truth is through a lie.