"Jiang Qing" is a persona poem with the epigraph: --Mao Zedong's wife committed suicide while under house arrest for crimes related to the Cultural Revolution. In it, she says
I used to speak so smoothly in pavilions, even
crows and clouds came down to hear.
Chang's "Ode to Iris Chang" is about "the December 1937 invasion of the Chinese city Nanking by the Japanese army," to quote the book's Notes, and another suicide. This book took me to other parts of the world, to new perspectives on my previous learning.
And I learned what Salvinia molesta is, "[k]nown as the world's worst weed," in that poem's epigraph but looking a lot like an aquatic plant in my town's water feature. Indeed, Wikipedia tells me it can be used to clean water of pollution, and I do think my town's greenery is self-watering and self-cleaning. So, hmm. But that title poem is also about a businessman tried and acquitted of obstruction of justice.
So I keep learning. And the coincidences continue, words or images found in the other August books: cicadas, honeysuckle, pigs, cows, the moon, gardening, as in "Spring Planting":
I am gardening, but my mind is tilling. The crows enter my yard.
They remind me of ink slabs
Chinese calligraphers used--not until mixed with water did
their black ink breathe and broth.
I don't need your praise
to survive. I was here first,
before you were here, before
you ever planted a garden.
And I'll be here when only the sun and moon
are left, and the sea, and the wide field.
I will constitute the field.
And in Chang's poem, "I am not
a weed, I need your praise to survive.
The field will consume me.
The field has chosen sides. The field is
not hungry for the middling.
How I hate the field and what it sees, its
teeth digging out the ochre
Ah, the poet's worst fear! Being mediocre. And how wordplay partly disperses it! This and the other ars poetica poems in Salvinia Molesta are bracing, honest, inspiring. It feels good to be schooled so.
And it was frequently August in The Wild Iris.