2017, 96 pages
Can a poetry seek to examine the erasure and reconstruction of a community history? Ching-In Chen’s recombinant is a work of material critique, philosophically jarring in its use of syntax, sound, the erasures held in the stillness of its whitespace that again and again mimic a historical registry. Drafting and growing multiple discourses, this text urges the reader to investigate female and genderqueer lineages in the context of labor smuggling and trafficking. Its syntactical utterances create a music that is masterful in these poems’ fractured words and experimental representation of page and praxis. Voices from various communities interact with each other to create what Rajagopalan Radhakrishnan calls an assertion of diasporan realities where multi-directional, heterogeneous modes of representation challenge conventional representation via photographs; newspaper articles; maps; city directories; records of immigration, birth, and death; as well as scholarly research and archaeological records. recombinant is a work of insistence, a refusal of erasure, a proof of shared memory through the rewriting and remixing of historical remnant.
Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017). Born of Chinese immigrants, they are a Kundiman, Lambda, Callaloo and Watering Hole Fellow and a member of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundations writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, and Boston, as well as helped organize the third national Asian Pacific American Spoken Word and Poetry Summit in Boston. Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009).
Chen's poetry has been featured at poetry readings across the country, including Poets Against Rape, Word from the Streets, and APAture Arts Festival: A Window on the Art of Young Asian Pacific Americans. Their work has been published in anthologies and journals including Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, A Face to Meet the Faces: an Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, Quarterly West, Court Green, Indiana Review, Diagram, Iron Horse Literary Review, and BorderSenses. They have won an Oscar Wilde honorable mention for "Two River Girls," a poem from The Heart's Traffic.
Their poem-play "The Geisha Author Interviews," also from The Heart's Traffic, was nominated for a John Cauble Short Play Award. Chen has also been awarded residencies and fellowships from Soul Mountain Retreat, Vermont Studio Center, the Fine Arts Work Center, the Paden Institute, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Norman Mailer Center, Ragdale Foundation, and Can Serrat.
A graduate of Tufts University, they earned an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside and a PhD at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. They currently teach creative writing at Sam Houston State University, where they are a poetry editor for the Texas Review.