“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
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, Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry, and the GLCA New Writers Award. 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 also the author of two chapbooks, Set the Garden on Fire, and Kissing the Sphinx.
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.
Chen earned his MFA from Syracuse University and is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing as an off-site Texas Tech University student. He lives in frequently snowy Rochester, NY with his partner, Jeff Gilbert and their pug dog, Mr. Rupert Giles. Chen is the 2018-2020 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University