Chen Chen

Acclaimed Chinese American Poet
T. Gunn Award for Gay Poetry
A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize-winner
National Book Award Longlist

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • Self-Portraits: Describing, Naming, Transforming
  • An Evening with Chen Chen

Biography

“Chen Chen is a poet of Whitman’s multitudes and of Langston Hughes’ blues, of Dickinson’s ‘so cold no fire can warm me’ and of Michael Palmer’s comic interrogation. What unifies the brilliance 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. Chen is a poet I’ll be reading for the rest of my life.” —Jericho Brown

“Chen Chen muses his way through the idea of inheritance (specifically, what it means to inherit things like love and family), a concept that is central to his identity as a queer Chinese-American immigrant.“ —Literary Hub

“Visually vivid, erotic, and intimate.” –Library Journal

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), which won the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and the GLCA New Writers Award. Chen is also the author of Your Emergency Contact Is Experiencing An Emergency (BOA Editions, 2022). In this highly anticipated second collection, Chen continues his investigation of family, both blood and chosen, examining what one inherits and what one invents, as a queer Asian American living through an era of Trump, mass shootings and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hybrid in form and set in New England, West Texas and a landlocked province of China, among other places, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency offers an insatiable curiosity about how it is we keep finding ways to hold onto one another.

Longlisted for the National Book Award, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities was also a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and was named one of the best of 2017 by The Brooklyn Rail, Entropy, Library Journal, and others. About the collection, Stephanie Burt says,“As Chen’s younger self had to escape from constricting familial expectations (become a lawyer, marry a woman, buy a house), the adult writer has to escape from the constrictions of autobiography, into hyperbole, stand-up comedy, fairy tale, twisted pastoral. It’s easy to imagine a young reader seeing himself here as he had not seen himself in poems before.” He is  the author of two chapbooks, Set the Garden on Fire (Porkbelly Press, 2015) and Kissing the Sphinx (Two of Cups Press, 2016).

In an interview with NPR, Chen explained, “‘I felt like I couldn’t be Chinese and American and gay all at the same time. I felt like the world I was in was telling me that these had to be very separate things.’ As someone who was struggling with his sexuality and thinking about identity— with immigrant parents and wondering how to come out, ‘Poems were a way for those different experiences to come together, for them to be in the same room.'”

His work has appeared in many publications, including Poetry, Tin House, Poem-a-Day, The Best American Poetry, Bettering American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Recently, his work has been translated into French, Greek, Spanish, and Russian. Poets & Writers Magazine featured him in their Inspiration Issue as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World.” He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation.

He holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where he was a University Fellow, and a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Texas Tech University, where he received a J.T. and Margaret Talkington Fellowship and won the Warren S. Walker Award for Best Critical Writing. He was the 2018-2022 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and currently teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast.

Short Bio

Chen Chen’s second book, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is forthcoming from BOA Editions in September 2022. His debut, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. His work appears in many publications, including Poetry and three editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. He was the 2018-2022 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and currently teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast.

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