With My Back to the World: Poems (Hardcover)

With My Back to the World: Poems By Victoria Chang Cover Image

With My Back to the World: Poems (Hardcover)


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A new collection of poetry inspired by the work of Agnes Martin, exploring topics of feminism, art, depression, and grief, by the author of the prizewinning collection Obit.

Yesterday I slung my depression on my back and went to the museum. I only asked four attendants where the Agnes painting was and the fifth one knew. I walked into the room and saw it right away. From afar, it was a large white square.

With My Back to the World engages with the paintings and writings of Agnes Martin, the celebrated abstract artist, in ways that open up new modes of expression, expanding the scope of what art, poetry, and the human mind can do. Filled with surprise and insight, wit and profundity, the book explores the nature of the self, of existence, life and death, grief and depression, time and space. Strikingly original, fluidly strange, Victoria Chang’s new collection is a book that speaks to how we see and are seen.

Victoria Chang has written several books of poetry, including The Trees Witness Everything (2022), and a nonfiction book, Dear Memory (2021). Her poetry collection OBIT was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Time Must-Read Book, and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in Poetry, and the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. It was also long-listed for a National Book Award and named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Griffin International Poetry Prize. Chang has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Chowdhury International Literature Award. She is the Bourne Chair in Poetry at Georgia Tech and the director of Poetry@Tech.
Product Details ISBN: 9780374611132
ISBN-10: 0374611130
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2024
Pages: 112
Language: English

“A poignant, powerful poetry collection that uses the work of American abstract painter Agnes Martin to tackle themes of grief, loss, the loneliness of the human experience, yet also the hopefulness of the human experience, as well. You will find yourself underlining so many of Chang's beautiful verses, along with quietly smiling at her wit.”
—Isaac Fitzgerald (Today Show pick)

“The poems in Victoria Chang’s With My Back to the World explore unwelcoming metaphysical depths, fearlessly probing the self, existence, life, death, and depression. Her lyrical strategy . . . allows her to create a new space, a place where depression and grief can be accepted rather than rejected or stigmatized . . . [With My Back to the World] proffers a valuable invitation to readers to look at realms of the self that they would prefer to ignore.”
—Nicole Yurcaba, The Arts Fuse

“Chang thrives at embodying and vocalizing universal feelings of anxiety, joy, grief, fear, and wonder. Further, it’s as if readers of her poetry are invited to visit a theater designed to accommodate a form or tradition with which she is obsessed . . . [With My Back to the World] is fully engaged with Agnes Martin’s paintings, drawings, and writings . . . Chang expertly probes the limitations of art’s ability to offer comfort or satisfaction.”
—David Roderick, Poets & Writers

“[The poems of With My Back to the World] are resounding interactions between poet and painter. Chang’s distress not only permeates the scored rectangles of Agnes Martin’s canvas, but bleeds along its edges to saturate every poem . . . A multi-layered, complicated canvas where grief drawn onto a preconceived happiness illuminates a marked, nuanced expression of both, giving way to a reanimated artistry.”
—Kale Kim, International Examiner

The magnetism of Chang’s language will convince you of the power of her project . . . Again and again, there’s the moment of recognition that readers come to poetry for: Here is a feeling you know well, but have never been able to witness outside of yourself. Isn’t it liberating to put these words to it? Don’t you feel less alone in your loneliness?”
—Phoebe Farrell-Sherman, BookPage (starred review)

“Painterly, meditative . . . Full of memorable insights as Chang experiments with erased and occluded work, all the while operating in the realm of feeling, where ‘desire is the only thing / with nerve endings.’ These elegiac poems thoughtfully balance the head and the heart.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

"Victoria Chang's lucid and playful poetry surprised and moved me with its friendly abundance of Koanlike lines—stimulating yet calming news from the dreamy outskirts of human consciousness."
—Tao Lin, author of Leave Society

“In Agnes Martin’s grid paintings, each pale rectangle can feel like an hour, a day, or a year. The effect of all these small variations seen at once approximates the overwhelming fact of other lives. With My Back to the World gives Victoria Chang that same kind of quiet, intimate, constrained but infinite room to work in. This book is the record of an artful, attentive mind, full of startling insights (“My solitude is like the grass. I become so aware of its presence that it too begins to feel like an audience”), a testament to care, integrity, and persistence.”
—Elisa Gabbert, author of Normal Distance