... remarkable ... these obits take the genre in an entirely new direction—Chang inverts the impersonal third person perspective, creating a reliable/unreliable first-person speaker who mourns and commemorates the death of a variety of ideas, objects, emotions, and people ... We know we are in the hands of a master. Restrictions in form can often lead to aesthetic and thematic liberation, and I was wholly engrossed by how much Chang accomplishes within the confines of the obituary’s obituary-ness—whether it’s the intense justified verticality to the use of dates, to the mix of objective and subjective intelligence ... That these poems do such complete work with so few tools from the poetry toolbox is humbling. Each poem is a masterwork of compression and compassion ... One of the many marvelous accomplishments of this book is how Chang makes private mourning and public mourning part of the same process.
Obit...is a book of poems that arrive in waves of grief, tidal but truncated verse paragraphs. Grief here slides at times into dark humor, revealing the expansiveness of the prose poem form. Here we have unmitigated heartbreak—but heartbreak mercifully free of the usual 'death etiquette' ... These funny/sad reproductions of the fraction-of-an-inch 'obit' (not elegy or eulogy) stand in for the fragmentary death notices of countless life stories, billed by the letter. Yet Chang gathers these fragments and their limitations—reanimating entire lives within the form.
The 'unknowingness' of death itself underscores each poem in the book. We get it: all that is mortal dies. But in Chang’s Obit, death makes a vaster clean sweep—the 'smaller deaths' attached to grief are inventoried ... The poet’s imagination and its pained empathy indeed 'live beyond' as it continues to record and reimagine death after death, long after her own 'loss' has occurred.
Within the rigid perimeters of these poems, Chang discusses the way grief robs us of form ... Whereas time undergoes fundamental changes, Chang points to how language simply collapses under the weight of this new world ... But for all the failures of language, Chang’s employment of it is beautiful and resonant ... Obit, independent of whether Chang feels she has 'successfully' described how it feels to grieve, ultimately provides nourishment[.]