Poet Chen Chen. Photo by Jeff Gilbert.
Chen Chen, the 15th annual A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize winner, recently spoke to PBS Newshour about his identity and what it means to be Chinese, American, and gay. Chen focuses much of his poetry on how we form our identities.
Chen says, “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. Poems were a way for those different experiences to come together, for them to be in the same room.”
The poet also incorporates an array of perspectives into his writing, ensuring that there is room for everyone: “In his work, Chen said he considers the spectrum of voices, experiences or types of diction that fit within the space of one poem. Expressing that range is important to his work, he said. ‘I think about, what am I allowing into this poem? What belongs here in the space of the poem? In the room of the poem what is being left out or denied?’ he said. ‘It’s this way to have different voices or people or experiences fit together in the poem, sometimes in an uncomfortable way, but in a necessary way.’”
Chen Chen’s first book, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, will be released from BOA in the spring of 2017.
Click here to read the full PBS interview.