Chen Chen

Award-winning Poet
National Book Award Finalist

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening With Chen Chen

“As a gay, Asian-American poet, Chen Chen casts his poems as both a refusal of the shame of sexuality and of centering whiteness or treating it as a highly desirable trait. Moving between whimsy and sobriety, Chen both exhibits and defies vulnerability.” —Publishers Weekly

“Chen Chen is willing to make a mess. He’s also willing to reach back to the inchoate ridiculousness of childhood, with its confusions, colliding registers, and contradictory axioms.  —Stephanie Burt 

“Here is a poet of Whitman’s multitudes, of Langston Hughes’ blues, and of Michael Palmer’s comic interrogation. What unifies is a voice desperate to believe that within every one of life’s sadnesses there is also hope, meaning, and—if we are willing to laugh at ourselves—humor.” —Jericho Brown

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. The collection has been named one of the best of 2017 by The Brooklyn Rail, Buzzfeed Books, Entropy, and Library Journal. Chen is also the author of two chapbooks, Kissing the Sphinx (2016) and set the garden on fire (2015).

Recently, his work was translated into Spanish and Russian, and Poets & Writers Magazine featured him in their Inspiration Issue as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World.” He has also been featured on the PBS Newshour. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, Tin House, The New York Times Magazine, The Best American Poetry, Bettering American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading.

In 2015, he earned his MFA at Syracuse University; currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. With the poet Sam Herschel Wein, he edits the new journal, Underblong.

Chen lives in frequently snowy Rochester, NY with his partner Jeff Gilbert and their pug dog Mr. Rupert Giles.

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, and was longlisted for the National Book Award. The collection has been named one of the best of 2017 by The Brooklyn Rail, Buzzfeed Books, Entropy, and Library Journal. Chen is also the author of two chapbooks, Kissing the Sphinx (2016) and set the garden on fire (2015). He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, Tin House, The New York Times Magazine, The Best American Poetry, Bettering American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Chen lives in Rochester, NY.

IF I SHOULD DIE TOMORROW, PLEASE NOTE THAT I WILL MISS THE PARTICULAR

music of the word “callipygian,”
which means the having of well-shaped buttocks.
I will miss the particular cruelty

of tongue twisters in my first tongue:
“Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.”

I will miss the particularly high volume
YES of correctly completing this tongue twister,
even once. & the deadpan ditty

of the English translation: “Mr. Shi, the poet
from a stone den, likes to eat lions. He pledges
solemnly to eat ten lions. Regularly

he goes to the market to look at the lions.”
I will miss the roar of those lions,
hungering for freedom

while Mr. Shi hungers for them. & outside
the market, on a nearby street, the bright
ding-ding of a bicycle bell. & the messenger

singing, A telegram, a telegram
from overseas . . .
& the sound of the sea.

The sound the sea makes at night,
delivering its own telegrams—
a sort of sensual

moo. I will miss the particular quiet
of my body, your body, opening
a window to listen.