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Publisher's Summary

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry

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 family — the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes — all 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.

Read by the author. 

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.

©2021 BOA Editions, Ltd. (P)2021 BOA Editions Ltd.

Critic Reviews

"What does Millennial poetry look like? One answer might be this wild debut from Chen Chen. He seems to run at the mouth, free-associating wildly, switching between lingo and 'higher' forms of diction. Nothing's out of bounds or off limits, no culture too 'pop' to find its place in poetry...nor anything too silly to point the way toward serious aims. And yet this is a deeply serious and moving book about Chinese-American experience, young love, poetry, family, and the family one makes amongst friends." (NPR Books)

 "Chen Chen’s debut collection is thoroughly of the moment, its energy devoted to explaining who Chen Chen is and how he got here. It tells the many stories that collude into identity: a mother, and a family, who cannot accept their son being gay, who blame it on their emigration, on the moral decay of the United States; a boy who grows up American, but is still seen as Chinese despite only the vaguest memories of the country and life there; a twenty-something, caught in the orbits of MFA programs, places like Brooklyn, the life of the precariat. All these are told in a fresh, playful, and often lonely voice shot through with references to high and low art, Celan and Kafka and Optimus Prime." (LA Review of Books)

 "The collection, as the title itself suggests, is about 'further possibilities,' about revising, reinventing, and reimagining the relational modes we currently have. If we are all tasked with being 'someone ‘for’ someone else — a son, a friend, a partner, a student, a dear love,' we cannot afford to be complacent or static in the ways that we inhabit and think about those relations. Interdependence is at the heart of Chen’s writing, and if we are to survive in these troubled times, we must continue to believe that there really are new ways to find the impossible honey." (Up the Staircase Quarterly)

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