cover image Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency

Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency

Chen Chen. BOA, $17 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-950774-69-2

The vibrant second collection from Chen (When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities) wonders aloud at how to make a place in a world where people and institutions strain under the weight of impossible expectations. In one poem, Chen imagines his father emigrating from the U.S. to Australia, where he “will toss out a dog-eared copy/ of the manual he received upon arriving in America—/ How to Have Deeply Sorrowful Exchanges// With Your Son About Your Immigrant Hardships:/ How to Make Him Understand He Must Become/ a Neurosurgeon/ At Least a Dentist.” Chen’s humor and curiosity shine in poems that experiment with form and content, asking, “why do only successes get to be// smashing, why not a smashing/ failure!” The collection suggests that it is humanity’s flawed nature, its failings, and its frequently impossible desires that make life meaningful; in Chen’s words, “If we could love perfectly, there would be no need to love. If we could finish grieving, there would be no need to live.” These questioning, funny, and deeply humane poems pack a fantastic punch. (Sept.)