The Chills at Will Podcast podcast

Episode 148 with Chen Chen, Writer of Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency and Brilliant Thinker, Craftsman, and Highly-Awarded and Esteemed Poet and Educator

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Episode 148 Notes and Links to Chen Chen’s Work 


   On Episode 148 of The Chills at Will Podcast, Pete welcomes Chen Chen, and the two discuss, among other topics, his experience as a teacher, his early relationships with reading, writing, and multilingualism, those writers and writing communities who continue to inspire and encourage him, muses in various arenas, etymology, and themes like family dynamics, racism, beauty, and anger that anchor his work.


   Chen Chen is an author, teacher, & editor His second book of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is out now from BOA Editions. The UK edition will be published by Bloodaxe Books (UK) in October. His debut, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA, 2017; Bloodaxe, 2019), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. Chen is also the author of five chapbooks, including the forthcoming Explodingly Yours (Ghost City Press, 2023), and the forthcoming book of craft essays, In Cahoots with the Rabbit God (Noemi Press, 2024). His work appears in many publications, including Poetry, Poem-a-Day, and three editions of The Best American Poetry (2015, 2019, & 2021). He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists.

   He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and a PhD from Texas Tech University. He has taught in UMass Boston’s MFA program and at Brandeis University as the 2018-2022 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence. Currently he is core poetry faculty for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. With a brilliant team, he edits the journal Underblong; with Gudetama the lazy egg, he edits the lickety~split. He lives in frequently snowy Rochester, NY with his partner, Jeff Gilbert and their pug, Mr. Rupert Giles.

Buy Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency


Chen Chen’s Website


Interview with Chen Chen: “Chinatown Presents: Finding Home with Chen Chen” 


Interview with Poetry LA from 2017


By Andrew Sargus Klein for Kenyon Review-"On Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities"








At about 9:15, Chen responds to Pete asking about how he stays so prolific and creative by describing his processes and the idea of any muses or inspirations 


At about 11:00, Chen describes “shed[ding] expectations” is or isn’t “worthy” of poetry


At about 13:10, The two discuss books on craft and Chen gives more background on his upcoming book of craft essays


At about 16:10, Chen gives background on the Taiwanese Rabbit God and how his upcoming book was influenced by the idea, especially as presented in Andrew Thomas Huang’s Kiss of the Rabbit God


At about 18:25, Chen explains his interest in the epistolary form, and how his upcoming work is influenced by Victoria Chang’s Dear Memory and Jennifer S. Chang “Dear Blank Space,” 


At about 22:30, Chen gives background and history in a macro and micro way for the use of the word “queer” and his usage and knowledge of Mandarin 


At about 26:50, Chen describes the sizable influence of Justin Chin on Chen’s own work


At about 28:25, Chen describes his early relationship with languages and explores how Mandarin and his parents’ Hokkien may influence his writing 


At about 34:55, Chen outlines what he read and wrote as a kid, including K.A. Applegate and The Animorphs and Phillip Pullman


At about 37:50, Chen responds to questions about motivations in reading fantasy and other works


At about 38:55, Chen highlights “chill-inducing” works and writers, such as Cunningham’s The Hours 


At about 41:30, Chen shouts Mrs. Kish and other formative writing teachers and talks about his early writing and the importance of “the interior voice”


At about 42:45, Pete wonders about how Chen’s teaching informs his writing and vice versa


At about 45:20, Chen cites Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do” and Rick Barot’s During the Pandemic as some of his go-to’s for teaching in his college classes


At about 48:20, Chen responds to Pete’s question about teaching his own work


At about 49:50, Pete and Chen discuss the idea of muses and the writing community energizing-the two cite Bhanu Kapil and Mary Ruefle and the ways in which their philosophies are centered on mutual communication/conversation


At about 55:30, Chen highlights Muriel Leung and an enriching conversation and her unique perspective that led to “I Invite My Parents…”


At about 57:45, The two begin discussing Chen’s Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency and its seeds


At about 1:00:40, Pete cites grackles as a motif, and Chen recounts memories of his time at Texas Tech and the Trump Presidency 


At about 1:02:45, The two discuss the powerful poem “The School of Fury” and the themes of rage and powerlessness and racism; Pete cites a profound insight from Neema Avashia


At about 1:06:45, Pete cites some powerful lines from Chen’s work and Chen makes connections


At about 1:08:20, Pete rattles off one of the longest titles known to man, “After My White Friends Say…” and Chen discusses ideas of identity and his rationale for the poem’s title and structure


At about 1:11:30, Chen talks about exercises he does in class with Mary Jean Chan’s Flèche 


At about 1:12:10, The two discuss craft and structure tools used in the collection


At about 1:14:25, The two talk about family dynamics and the speaker’s mother and her relationship with the speaker’s boyfriend  


At about 1:18:50, Pete cites lines that were powerful for “leaving things unsaid” and Chen expands on ideas of innocence and willful ignorance in his work


At about 1:22:30, The two discuss ideas of mortality, including the Pulse tragedy, familial connections, and the series of poems titled “A Small Book of Questions”


At about 1:24:10, Ideas of beauty of discussed from Chen’s work


At about 1:25:15, Chen reads “The School of Fury” and the two discuss it afterwards


At about 1:29:40, Chen gives contact info and recommends Boa Editions as a place to buy his book and support independent publishers, and another good organization in Writers and Books, featuring Ampersand Bookstore 

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Please tune in for Episode 149 with Erika T. Wurth. Erika’s highly-awaited literary-horror novel, White Horse, is forthcoming on November 1; she is a Kenyon and Sewanee fellow and an urban Native of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent.

The episode will air on November 1, the publication date for White Horse.


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