PRAISE FOR HALF-LIT HOUSES:
"Tina Chang’s poems perform the ancient tasks of remembrance, recovery, and praise. This work seeks to account for a life in the context of the myths, cultural and familial, that both nurture and threaten that very life and the voice that might sing it into legend. This is a poetry of amazing lushness, melancholy and affirmation."
— Li-Young Lee
Physical, emotional, and spiritual hunger fuel the core of Tina Chang's first collection of poems, Half-Lit Houses—hunger for memory; hunger for ancestry; hunger for definition (both self and song); hunger for a living/breathing father; hunger for God; and, of course, hunger for food. With urgent curiosity and imaginative receptiveness, Chang reconstructs history and moment in a lyrical yet declarative poetry that leaves the reader feeling haunted, transformed, satisfied. –Pleiades
“Chang’s poems rescue the inexpressible, preserve vibrant domestic histories, articulate the very slowness of loss, and answer the chilling aftermath of grief with forms of bliss….Reading Half-Lit Houses is to know the family as a force at work within ourselves, filling the timeless space we inhabit everyday…. Disturbed and enchanted by the rude force of its loving relations, the poet is born into the half-lit houses of language, places where she feels ready to claim her power: I am the god I don’t know & the fire that burns with no fuel.”
-Rain Taxi Review of Books
"I am the only one in the car / without a baby. I can say this / in seven dialects. Such are the full-formed thoughts emerging from Half-Lit Houses by Tina Chang. In 40-plus lyrics, Chang channels historical settings (mostly varying provinces in '30's and '40's China) and limns an identity marked by Life broken down by the sallow tongue and feverish saliva, / the salt and sauce defeating you."
One of Chang’s strengths as a writer is her ability to let mystery reside within each poem. Rather than divulging too much information, she uses recurring images—mangled animals, birds, wasps, rain—to stand in place of a more conventional narrative. Each poem becomes, in essence, a kind of half-lit house in which the speaker is given temporary shelter. These poems reconstruct the poet’s fractured past—a place of fragility and volatility, to be revisited with utmost care. Chang’s ability to both tell a story and suggest meaning through images is remarkable, making Half-Lit Houses a welcome debut. -Review Revue (More...)