San Francisco poet and writer Justin Chin
is being taken off life support today after suffering a massive stroke last week, according to friends.
Fellow writer Kirk Read, who called Chin “the Kurt Cobain of our writing scene,” reported in an email to friends that after several days in the Intensive Care Unit at California Pacific Medical Center’s Davies campus, doctors said Chin was unlikely to recover. His family asked doctors to remove him from his ventilator today, Read said.
Justin Chin--Vincent Van Go-Gogh from RADAR Productions on Vimeo.
Born in Malaysia and raised in Singapore, Chin came to San Francisco, where his raw and often funny writing made him a prominent figure in the Bay Area literary scene. His first book of poetry, Bite Hard
, was published in 1997 by San Francisco’s Manic D Press. Two more followed: Harmless Medicine
in 2001 and Gutted
— a series of poems about Chin’s experience of taking care of his ailing, elderly father — in 2006. Gutted
won a Thom Gunn Award for Poetry in 2007 and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
Chin also published Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes & Pranks
with St. Martin’s press in 1999 and a quasi-memoir, Burden of Ashes
, with Alyson Publications in 2002.
In both his poetry and prose, Chin explored his identity as a gay Asian American. Bite Hard
studies — in vivid detail — lovers and dreams, crabs and HIV. But his work quickly shifts from gritty to nostalgic. In “Incontinence,” one of the poems in Gutted
, Chin describes how one of his father’s medications robs him of urinary and bowel control. “And I just again want to be the one/who fell asleep in the stands with his head/in his dad’s lap at the home team’s first game,” he writes.
Read reported Tuesday that a neighbor discovered Chin unconscious in the early morning hours of Dec. 18 after hearing a loud sound from Chin’s apartment.
“Justin Chin is an important writer. I want him to be studied and remembered and read and adored for generations to come,” Read wrote. “As I was in the room with all the tubes and wires and him leaving, on a certain level it felt profound. But Justin would have made a catty joke about the divorce of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon.”