Synopses & Reviews
Ken Chen is the 2009 winner of the annual Yale Younger Poets competition. These poems of maturation chronicle the poet's relationship with his immigrant family and his unknowing attempt to recapture the unity of youth through comically doomed love affairs that evaporate before they start.
Hungrily eclectic, the wry and emotionally piercing poems in this collection steal the forms of the shooting script, blues song, novel, memoir, essay, logical disputation, aphorism — even classical Chinese poetry in translation. But as contest judge Louise Gluck notes in her foreword, The miracle of this book is the degree to which Ken Chen manages to be both exhilaratingly modern (anti-catharsis, anti-epiphany) while at the same time never losing his attachment to voice, and the implicit claims of voice: these are poems of intense feeling....Like only the best poets, Ken Chen makes with his voice a new category.
"In his award-winning debut, Ken Chen draws on techniques from filmmaking such as the match frame (a shift in place, but not time), the jump cut (a shift in time, but not place), and their variants. He offers cues as though poems were stage sets. He also portrays a Chinese-American family with a reflexive wit that lends Juvenilia the feeling of a hand-held documentary, which is not to say the work is rough-cut or naive, but that it suggests proximity -- at one point, the speaker announces, 'Hello, my name is Ken Chen' -- and reveals the author as both maker/subject in ways that complicate "autobiography." Karen Rigby, Rain Taxi (read the entire Rain Taxi review)
About the Author
Ken Chen is the executive director of the Asian American Writers Workshop. His work has been published or recognized in Best American Essays 2006, Best American Essays 2007, and The Boston Review of Books. A graduate of Yale Law School, he lives in Brooklyn, NY.