Chen Chen

Chen Chen Headshot

Chen Chen is the author of two books of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency (BOA Editions, 2022) and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), which was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. His work appears in many publications, including Poetry and three editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. He was the 2018-2022 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and currently teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast. He lives with his partner, Jeff Gilbert, and their pug, Mr. Rupert Giles. 

Excerpt from “we’ll be gone after these brief messages”

By Chen Chen

god stopped by in his magenta rowboat

i said god you have to stop stopping by
if you’re never going to tell me the meaning of life

god said life is meaningless
while language often means too much

my grandmother stopped by & said no
the meaning of life is love
the kind that produces children
why don’t you have a girlfriend yet

my mother stopped by & said look
he’s busy with his studies stop asking

god got back in his turquoise steamship

life is a joyful thing he said
it’s probably very good for you.

From Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency (BOA Editions, 2022)


“THE PEN TEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH CHEN CHEN” by Ayla Schultz. The PEN Ten. 22 September 2022.

Chen Chen’s Newest Poetry Book, ‘Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency,’ Touches on the Poignant and Playful” by Sarah Neilson. Shondaland. 14 September 2022.

An Interview with Chen Chen” by Audrey Bowers. The Broken Plate. 9 April 2021.


Reading | November 1, 2022