Every Atom | No. 116

Marilyn Chin

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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There is so much to learn from Whitman’s long lines. I reread “Song of Myself”over and over again. I admire his masterful use of breath and phrasing, how he is able to control the speed of a long poem by occasionally offering a short respite, as well as make emphatic yawps with strong beats. The rich, erotic imagery, coupled with sonic playfulness, thronged with flora and fauna and people of different races and classes brilliantly represent the power of a burgeoning democratic nation.


One of my favorite lines is this one:


Echos, ripples, and buzzed whispers… loveroot, silkthread, crotch and vine


Two strong trochees, relaxed and slowed by two iambs, then continuing on with two more strong trochees!


Yes, indeed, this erotic passage is unforgettable!

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Marilyn Chin is an award-winning poet and activist. Her newest book of poems is A Portrait of the Self as Nation: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2018). Her poems are considered Asian American Classics and are taught all over the world. Presently, she serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.


Cover art by Reece Thompson