I'm by no means a frequent poetry reader, but Chen has my heart. This collection of poems is funny, beautiful, surprising, and honest. It's for people who like poetry, people who don't like poetry but have a sense of humor, and anyone who has ever experienced a human emotion, whether that's love, loss, or joy at watching your dog jump onto your bed. Some of my favorites include "A Favorite Room", "Things the Grackles Bring", and "The School of Eternities".
What happens when everything falls away, when those you call on in times of need are themselves calling out for rescue? In his highly anticipated second collection, Chen Chen continues his investigation of family, both blood and chosen, examining what one inherits and what one invents, as a queer Asian American living through an era of Trump, mass shootings, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Always at work in the wrecked heart of this new collection is a switchboard operator, picking up and connecting calls. Raucous 2 a.m. prank calls. Whispered-in-a-classroom emergency calls. And sometimes, its pages record the dropping of a call, a failure or refusal to pick up. With irrepressible humor and play, these anarchic poems celebrate life, despite all that would crush aliveness. Hybrid in form and set in New England, West Texas, and a landlocked province of China, among other places, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency refuses neat categorizations and pat answers. Instead, the book offers an insatiable curiosity about how it is we keep finding ways to hold onto one another.
About the Author
Chen Chen was born in Xiamen, China and has lived in Western Massachusetts, Upstate New York, and West Texas. His debut poetry collection, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was long-listed for the National Book Award and won the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, the Thom Gunn Award, the GLCA New Writers Award, and the Texas League of Writers' Book Award. In 2019, Bloodaxe Books published the UK edition. He is also the author of a collection of essays, In Cahoots with the Rabbit God (Noemi Press, forthcoming 2023), and he has written four chapbooks, most recently GESUNDHEIT! (Glass Poetry Press, 2019), a collaboration with Sam Herschel Wein. Chen's work appears in three editions of The Best American Poetry, and his poems have been translated into French, Greek, Russian, and Spanish. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman and the National Endowment for the Arts. He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and a PhD from Texas Tech University. He teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence. He also serves on the poetry faculty for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. He edits the Twitter-based journal the lickety split and with a brilliant team, he edits Underblong. He lives with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug, Mr. Rupert Giles.