Book details

With My Back to the World


Author: Victoria Chang

With My Back to the World

With My Back to the World


About This Book

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....

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Book Details

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.

Imprint Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



In The News

“Victoria Chang is continually expanding the possibilities of poetic form . . . [With My Back to the World] is an atmospheric landscape where borders dissolve: between speaker and artwork . . . between painting and language . . . between making and being observed. Visual art and poetry are intricately connected, and Chang shows us the skein.”
—Natasha Rao, The Rumpus

“A poignant, powerful poetry collection that uses the work of American abstract painter Agnes Martin to tackle themes of grief, loss, the loneliness of the human experience, yet also the hopefulness of the human experience, as well. You will find yourself underlining so many of Chang's beautiful verses, along with quietly smiling at her wit.”
—Isaac Fitzgerald (Today Show pick)

“The poems in Victoria Chang’s With My Back to the World explore unwelcoming metaphysical depths, fearlessly probing the self, existence, life, death, and depression. Her lyrical strategy . . . allows her to create a new space, a place where depression and grief can be accepted rather than rejected or stigmatized . . . [With My Back to the World] proffers a valuable invitation to readers to look at realms of the self that they would prefer to ignore.”
—Nicole Yurcaba, The Arts Fuse

“Chang thrives at embodying and vocalizing universal feelings of anxiety, joy, grief, fear, and wonder. Further, it’s as if readers of her poetry are invited to visit a theater designed to accommodate a form or tradition with which she is obsessed . . . [With My Back to the World] is fully engaged with Agnes Martin’s paintings, drawings, and writings . . . Chang expertly probes the limitations of art’s ability to offer comfort or satisfaction.”
—David Roderick, Poets & Writers

“[The poems of With My Back to the World] are resounding interactions between poet and painter. Chang’s distress not only permeates the scored rectangles of Agnes Martin’s canvas, but bleeds along its edges to saturate every poem . . . A multi-layered, complicated canvas where grief drawn onto a preconceived happiness illuminates a marked, nuanced expression of both, giving way to a reanimated artistry.”
—Kale Kim, International Examiner

The magnetism of Chang’s language will convince you of the power of her project . . . Again and again, there’s the moment of recognition that readers come to poetry for: Here is a feeling you know well, but have never been able to witness outside of yourself. Isn’t it liberating to put these words to it? Don’t you feel less alone in your loneliness?”
—Phoebe Farrell-Sherman, BookPage (starred review)

“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

About the Creators

With My Back to the World

With My Back to the World