Poulin Prize-winning author Chen Chen is featured in the September issue of The Atlantic as part of a long-form article on "How Came to Matter Again." The article by Jesse Lichtenstein explores the changing face of American poetry and the growing surge in poetry readership among Millennials and Generation Z. Lichenstein writes:
The face of poetry in the United States looks very different today than it did even a decade ago, and far more like the demographics of Millennial America. If anything, the current crop of emerging poets anticipates the face of young America 30 years from now.
The article notes how emerging poets use social media, spoken-word performances, and multimedia works to build a following of readers. The article also notes how, according to a recent survey by the National Endowment for the Arts, poetry readership has doubled among 18-to-34-year-olds over the past five years.
Lichenstein writes of Chen Chen's critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning debut collection When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities:
As the title suggests, in Chen’s work the new lyric “I” is open-ended, cumulative, marked by potential. His poems boast the frank ease of a late-night Gchat with a bright, emotionally available friend, and the terrain is, at least overtly, more personal than political. At the same time, the conversational tone (in tune with an era in which many of our conversations are typed) offers a welcome into a world that is neither insular nor stable.
Lichenstein notes how Chen explores the intersectional identities of writing poetry as a queer Asian American in an immigrant family and how Chen's eye for detail builds an intimate connection between the speaker and the reader. The section concludes by noting how Chen stands out from other emerging poets of his generation:
Chen is a rarity among this new cohort of poets, many of whose debuts deal in justifiable rage, plunge into agony, flash with fleeting moments of ecstasy. “I’m keenly aware of the political forces, the layers of artifice, the whiffs of strategic essentialism, and the bouts of slippery fragmentation that go into group identity formation,” he has said. But the “I” that rides the crosswinds of “queer Asian American,” while also telling a personal story, conveys a daring and unusual suppleness: When I Grow Up permits itself both to dwell in realms of everyday sadness and to champion the lesser virtues of amusement, curiosity, and delight.
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