Juvenilia (Yale Series of Younger Poets)
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Ken Chen is the 2009 winner of the annual Yale Younger Poets competition. These poems of maturation chronicle the poet’s relationship with his immigrant family and his unknowing attempt to recapture the unity of youth through comically doomed love affairs that evaporate before they start. Hungrily eclectic, the wry and emotionally piercing poems in this collection steal the forms of the shooting script, blues song, novel, memoir, essay, logical disputation, aphorism—even classical Chinese poetry in translation. But as contest judge Louise Glück notes in her foreword, “The miracle of this book is the degree to which Ken Chen manages to be both exhilaratingly modern (anti-catharsis, anti-epiphany) while at the same time never losing his attachment to voice, and the implicit claims of voice: these are poems of intense feeling. . . . Like only the best poets, Ken Chen makes with his voice a new category.”
linear haiku. In other words, the embedded past.) The blurred identities and boundary confusions of “The Invisible Memoir” take other forms in this book, sometimes direct, comic, and sometimes, as in the love poems, sustained, so that love becomes a kind of quicksand, dissolving individuality. There seems sometimes only the haziest boundary between self and other, self and world: She said to her husband, “Last night my life was so quiet that my feelings were audible. When the phone rang, I
Not the monk you quite expect, Wang Wei wears a cowboy’s deadened face and stares at you not unlike an establishing shot…. And Wang Wei asks Who are you? And my Father says Decide. My Father and My Mother Decide My Future and How Could We Forget Wang Wei? Louise Glück ACKNOWLEDGMENTS To my family. This book would not have been possible without the generosity of Louise Glück. Working on this manuscript with her has been a true delight and a life-changing mentorship and friendship. Special
is only what will happen to everyone Adjust your eyes to the unlit room. ESSAY ON CRYING AT NIGHT I am just like my mother. I buy books and tell myself that I am buying wisdom and at the end of my life, I own a house full of books. When I was little, I thought that the water came out of the showerhead because it was crying. This is because I heard my mother crying and thought it was the showerhead. ECHO “Such omissions of the subject allows the poet not to intrude his own personality upon the
for Don’t— THE MANSIONS OF THE MOON The crescent fattened, making content the anorexic moon. Escapes the smog and eats the road, the moon winds up our time and chews the road back into itself. The moon is tattooed by black pattern of branch. The moon is shy and hides like two people behind a silence and pretense of no emotion. It understands what it is like to have one’s own heart carved away in phases. This is the price of being other than lifeless. An eyelid goes gibbous with water.
the snow and confess. Night coming, we wade slow towards our cold milkfresh star, the eyelid theater that intrudes on sleep, the mix CDs and Polaroids—tender proof of all our past! Neither of us knows how the story will end, except that it is morning and we have just been born, our hearts ladled with larks, no—sparrowsong and NPR drenching the cool apartment, you kissing my eyes while I pretend I’m still asleep. Last night, I saw Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh and was struck by a scene in which a