Natalie Gutierrez | Contributing Writer
Connecting with a queer Asian-American audience fills poet Chen Chen with pride.
“I share my identities, histories, and experiences because I see how much it matters,” said Chen to PantherNOW. “It is important to give a voice to those emotions. The chance to articulate what is in your mind and in your heart is one of the core goals of creative writing.”
Chen, on a tour promoting his second book “Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency,” will close out Writers on the Bay, a series that invites published writers, grad students and MFA alums to mingle at the Biscayne Bay Campus Barnes & Noble.
A graduate from Syracuse University’s MFA program, Chen earned his doctorate in creative writing from Texas Tech University. In 2017, he released his first book “When I Grow Up I Want To Be a List of Further Possibilities.” His works have appeared in “Poetry Magazine” and “The Massachusetts Review.” Chen teaches at New England College but worked as a poet-in-residence at Brandeis University for four years.
His work was awarded two Pushcart Prizes and longlisted for the National Book Award.
“I’m super-excited to meet students and talk to them about their interests around creative writing,” Chen said. “I love university visits. I always love that kind of meeting of interests and creative imagination. I am looking forward to it.”
Chen hopes students will feel encouraged to pursue their own creative interests, whether it be poetry, writing or another form.
Creative writing helps people notice things externally and internally, Chen said. As an Asian-American, Chen has also found that his poetry has resonated with marginalized communities and understands the need for representation.
“It can be transformative,” Chen said. “Creative writing, in general, can help people pay attention better, to look at the world around them and see it more closely. I am most proud of bringing a really joyful sensibility to poetry, which I think has always existed.”
“This is free and informal,” said program assistant and MFA graduate Nicholas Garnett. “This is the opportunity to hear from and meet a working poet, someone who is also young. To become a creative writer in a language that is not your native language is pretty extraordinary. If someone has any interest in contemporary poets or contemporary writing, they can broaden their horizons by meeting a successful poet and finding out more about how they work and how they came to be.”
Part of what Chen hopes to debunk are notions about poetry as an exercise by and for the elite.
“I think that there is this popular misconception around poetry that it is super academic and obscure, like one big riddle you have to solve,” Chen said. “I am proud to bring a different perspective on poetry.”
Chen Chen will speak at Writers on the Bay on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. You can learn more about the Writers on the Bay series on Instagram (@creativewritingfiu) and Twitter (@FIU_MFA).