Let Not-Knowing Push You Somewhere New

Urvashi Bahuguna interviews poet Chen Chen

Urvashi Bahuguna: The back of your book lists the categories POETRY / ASIAN AMERICAN / LGBTQ. How do you respond to being referred to as an Asian American poet or a queer poet?

Chen Chen: I embrace these labels because I think it’s important to be specific about the experiences and histories from which I’m writing. I want to question the supposed universality of work that doesn’t label itself by specific identity markers. Why doesn’t work about middle class white people in suburbia announce itself as such? Like: POETRY / MIDDLE CLASS WHITE PEOPLE / SUBURBIA / A LOT OF OBSERVATIONS ABOUT BIRDS PROBABLY. But that kind of writing typically just gets categorized as poetry, plain poetry. The assumption is that work like mine operates within a narrower landscape. But I want to show how expansive and messy and strange writing out of or in response to these particular categories can be.


I Can Only Go by My Gut

A conversation with Singaporean novelist Jeremy Tiang

Nick Stember: You’ve said before that you dislike talking about your work, and I guess this is a little bit of an ironic or awkward place to start an interview, but I wonder if you could elaborate on this.

Jeremy Tiang: I think the work should stand on its own, and by the time it's out in the world, I don't have much more to say about it. I also don't like talking about work-in-progress, because I believe that if you say something out loud too much, it starts to feel limp and worn out by the time you come to write it. Really, I'd be much happier if author panels could just consist of me showing the audience pictures of my cat.