Things That No Longer Delight Me is a collection of poems about family and memory. This book is filled with objects. The author writes:
I like objects for company,
to decorate the plainest spaces, decorum
I amass details,
jade bracelet, her animal-print
dresses, an oval coral cameo.
How do objects counter loneliness, she asks, and speak to us of how to behave?
In Things That No Longer Delight Me, lyric is driven by a compulsion or need to collect, in order to make sense of the past and stay connected to it.
And what if that connection were to be lost? Confronting loss, the book pieces together a family history from stories fragmented and overheard. It asks: What is hearsay and what is history? It seeks to embody story, or historical detail, in lyric form. Resisting nostalgia, its poems respect what is diminished by grief or loss yet reveal details that hold sway over us and give us continuing pleasure.
These poems move with poise and a painterly precision through the realms of history, elegy inheritance and loss. They are a map you can trust--if what you seek is "an eternity," to cross "the narrow portal between seasons" and "be led back out in amazement." I am arrested again and again by the beauty and devotion coursing through these lines.
—Tracy K. Smith
What is family history, after all, but the stories we overhear? That is what I thought as I read Leslie C. Chang's Things That No Longer Delight Me with its quiet yet powerful interweaving of past and present, of reclamation and loss, of histories whispered and revealed. Her poetry is, to quote one of her lines, a process of memory and bone. In a field of strong contenders littered with beautifully written poems dedicated to craft, Things That No Longer Delight Me is a book in which craft is put to use for a better purpose; to tell a story which needs to be told. It's a beautifully lyric time machine.
University of Notre Dame
Leslie Chang's several images of trapped light remind me that if you open a kaleidoscope and shake the contents onto your palm, you will discover an assortment of, say, charms and sequins. In this first book, she has collected ordinary things to dazzle the reader--battered planet, aerogramme, jackdaw in azalea, the requisite jade bracelet--then mixes them into the poetry of family history and personal habit. Things That No Longer Delight Me is sure to delight the reader.
author of The Narrow Road to the Interior
In their mix of tenderness, delicacy of observation, their feel for textures, their refined and refining intelligence, all brought to bear by a robust sensibilty that doesn't flinch in the face of the harder matters of absence, loss, grief, the poems of Leslie Chang compose a complete, remembered, lived-in world . . . Unmarked by rhetorical showiness, Chang's pitch-perfect sketches enter unobtrusively into the lives of her family elders with a profound understanding, the result of contemplation, patience, silence. Taken together, the poems compose an elegiac celebration of family life—bridging two or three generations, two countries, two different worlds, all realized at a distance and in memory, and brought back to life in these brief, brilliant conjurings. 'You knew how to receive a guest,' she says in one poem: 'With a gift.' In Things That No Longer Delight Me, Leslie Chang offers us many such welcoming gifts, all wrapped in what she justly calls 'the language of the here and now.
Chang explores her heritage, and she reimagines lives with devotion and loyalty.