WINNER OF THE THOM GUNN AWARD FOR GAY POETRY
WINNER OF THE GLCA NEW WRITERS AWARD
WINNER OF THE A. POULIN, JR. POETRY PRIZE
A LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2017 SELECTION: POETRY & LITERATURE
ON NPR BOOKS'S LIST OF "POETRY TO PAY ATTENTION TO: 2017'S BEST VERSE"
In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and familythe strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyesall from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one's own path in identity, life, and love.
In the Hospital
My mother was in the hospital & everyone wanted to be my friend.
But I was busy making a list: good dog, bad citizen, short
skeleton, tall mocha. Typical Tuesday.
My mother was in the hospital & no one wanted to be her friend.
Everyone wanted to be soft cooing sympathies. Very reasonable
pigeons. No one had the time & our solution to it
was to buy shinier watches. We were enamored with
what our wrists could declare. My mother was in the hospital
& I didn't want to be her friend. Typical son. Tall latte, short tale,
bad plot, great wifi in the atypical café. My mother was in the hospital
& she didn't want to be her friend. She wanted to be the family
grocery list. Low-fat yogurt, firm tofu. She didn't trust my father
to be it. You always forget something, she said, even when
I do the list for you. Even then.
Chen Chen was born in Xiamen, China, and grew up in Massachusetts. His work has appeared in two chapbooks and in such publications as Poetry, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Best of the Net, and The Best American Poetry. The recipient of the 2016 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, he has been awarded fellowships from Kundiman, the Saltonstall Foundation, Lambda Literary, and in 2015, he was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships. He earned his BA at Hampshire College and his MFA at Syracuse University. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. Chen lives in Lubbock, Texas, with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug dog, Rupert Giles.
About the Author
Jericho Brown is the recipient of the Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book, Please (New Issues, 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon, 2014), was named one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Best American Poetry. Brown earned a PhD from the University of Houston, an MFA from the University of New Orleans, and a BA from Dillard University. He is an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta.
Table of Contents
Self-Portrait as So Much Potential 13
I'm not a religious person but 17
In the Hospital 18
Summer Was Forever 19
Race to the Tree 20
West of Schenectady 24
Self-Portrait With & Without 25
First Light 26
How I Became Sagacious 28
Please take off your shoes before entering do not disturb 30
Song with a Lyric from Allen Ginsberg 33
Talented Human Beings 34
To the Guanacos at the Syracuse Zoo 35
Elegy for My Sadness 37
Ode to My Envy 39
Irreducible Sociality 40
Second Thoughts on a Winter Afternoon 44
In the City 45
The Cuckoo Cry 47
Didier et Zizou 48
Kafka's Axe & Michael's Vest 50
In Search of the Least Abandoned Constellation 55
If I should die tomorrow, please note that I will miss the particular 56
Frog-Hopping Gravestones 57
Sorrow Song with Optimus Prime 58
For i will do/undo what was done/undone to me 61
In This Economy 62
Night falls like a button 64
Things Stuck in Other Things Where They Don't Belong 65
Song of the Night's Gift 67
Chapter VIII 68
Nature Poem 69
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities 70
For I Will Consider My Boyfriend Jeffrey 72
Babel & juice 74
Song of the Anti-Sisyphus 75
Talking to God About Heaven from the Bed of a Heathen 77
Elegy to Be Exhaled at Dusk 78
Spell to Find Family 80
Little Song 82
Poem in Noisy Mouthfuls 83
Poplar Street 85
About the Author 92
What People are Saying About This
"Chen Chen refuses to be boxed in or nailed down. He is a poet of Whitman’s multitudes and of Langston Hughes's blues, of Dickinson's 'so cold no fire can warm me' and of Michael Palmer’s comic interrogation. What unifies the brilliance of When I Grow up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities is a voice desperate to believe that within every one of life’s sadnesses there is also hope, meaning, andif we are willing to laugh at ourselveshumor. This is a book I wish existed when I first began reading poetry. Chen is a poet I’ll be reading for the rest of my life."
"Chen Chen is already one of my favorite poets ever. Funny, absurd, bitter, surreal, always surprising, and deeply in love with this flawed world. I'm in love with this book."
"The radioactive spider that bit Chen Chen [isn’t that how first books get made?] gave him powers both demonic and divine. The bite transmitted vision, worry, want, memory of China, America’s grief, and People magazine, as well as a radical queer critique of the normative. What a gift that bite waslinguistic, erotic, politic and impolitic, idiosyncratic and emphatic. What a blessing and burden to write out of the manifold possibilities of that contact."
"I so deeply love this poet’s imagination where old shoes might walk back up the steps of a house, where one speaker pledges ‘allegiance to the already fallen snow’ and another says ‘Let’s put our briefcases on our heads, in the sudden rain, // & continue meeting as if we’ve just been given our names.’ In precise and gorgeous language, Chen Chen shows us that the world is strange and bright with ardor. He reminds us of the miracle of the sensual and sensory. This is a book I will return to whenever I forget what a poem can do, whenever I am in need of song or hope. If a peony wrote poems in a human language, I think that these would be his poems. If the rain wrote poems… I mean: this is an important work by an astonishing and vital voice."