With My Back to the World: Poems
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.
Praise for With My Back to the World: Poems
“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