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About this poet

Ken Chen is the executive director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop and the author of Juvenilia (Yale University Press, 2010), winner of the Yales Series of Younger Poets.

Brief Lives [excerpt]

Ken Chen

Descartes in Love

Love, accepting that we are not pure and lucent hearts, ricocheting towards each other like unlatched stars—no, we are tainted with self. We sometimes believe the self is an invisible glass, just as we believe the body is a suit made of meat. Doubt all things invisible. Doubt all things visible.
 

Colin Powell

Not to be a tragic person. What is a tragic person? The victim of a crime who does not realize the criminal is himself.
 

Adonis Prettyboy in Hell

And then her son with love-gun and a quiver
snatched a love-shaft and delivered—a twiggy arrow 
in her nipple like a nasty sliver...
A big pig stuck me with his tusk, but it's life that's the bore, silly!
I never got desire, I always got what I wanted
And in this hallway incredulous of lights, I want wild pears, firm booblike fruit—Daffodils! 
Clovers! And the trill of starlings why not! We could grow 
apples here... Apples? So, I suppose I do miss her

          —You know when I fell out of life
I grabbed her heart like a rope;

Virginia Woolf

 

The target audience of my secrets is not my friends, but my journals and the strangers who will read them in the future.
 

Child of Immigrants

I used to pretend I was American.
This was until I realized I was American.
 

Richard Rorty

What is forgiveness? When someone else's sin becomes merely an action we ourselves might plausibly commit. The virtue of hypocrisy—we temporarily become people other than ourselves and can notice our actions from the other side, as saintly as no one.
 

Io

Symbol is 
abridgement. I am not a cow and Argus not omniscience. 
We are clockfraught beings. 
The man I love stopped my heart when he froze the world to night. 
My heart being part of the world.

Copyright © 2011 by Ken Chen. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2011 by Ken Chen. Used with permission of the author.

Ken Chen

Ken Chen is the executive director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop and the author of Juvenilia (Yale University Press, 2010), winner of the Yales Series of Younger Poets.

by this poet

poem
How joyous!, 
passing this time alone 
with your father, how bright his golden laugh 
which drew you to laugh yourself uncontrolled, 
how sweet the happy hour oysters you two pry and eat, 
piling wobbling shells that glisten on the table
while the pianist plays by the kitchen doors. 
You find yourself reminded
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