Her visual artistry at work, she avails herself of the spatial elements of text—ellipses, disjunction, concrete poetry, blank space—to convey uncertainty and instability. A little sound escapes him, and then: To feel and mind you I feel from the senses—I read each muscle, I ask the strength of the gesture to move like a poem. Her special kettle boils in no time, is a feat of engineering. An American Lyric , poets dare to tackle project books, with historical sweep and hybrid form, right out of the gate. Chen is a rarity among this new cohort of poets, many of whose debuts deal in justifiable rage, plunge into agony, flash with fleeting moments of ecstasy. They strain to think anew about selfhood and group membership. The speaker runs away, climbs a tree, scales a wall, falls back to Earth—eventually hobbling home to face abiding parental disappointment.
The energy on display is about more than savvy marketing or niche appeal. Chen joins an array of other talented young poets among them Ocean Vuong, Hieu Minh Nguyen, and Fatimah Asghar whose work explores the challenges of being a queer Asian American in an immigrant family. But the poems rarely land where their opening salvos suggest they are heading. A little sound escapes him, and then: When I Grow Up permits itself both to dwell in realms of everyday sadness and to champion the lesser virtues of amusement, curiosity, and delight. The speaker runs away, climbs a tree, scales a wall, falls back to Earth—eventually hobbling home to face abiding parental disappointment. Is poetry up to the task? Were they, she demanded, making a last stand against the hordes of up-and-coming poets of different skin complexions and different eye slants? Smith both future U. His poems boast the frank ease of a late-night Gchat with a bright, emotionally available friend, and the terrain is, at least overtly, more personal than political. I say it mine. But Smith was sanguine: For Long Soldier, language and the body are not really separable. The traditional gatekeepers of poetry—big journals, respected publishing houses large and small, prize-giving committees—now know where to turn to find a broad spectrum of already vetted work. The poem builds force with stark, declarative sentences, each standing as a stanza or paragraph on its own. Emerging poets of this digital-native generation are ready to work at getting their words and their names out there. Skim the table of contents of the major literary journals, including white-shoe poetry enterprises like Poetry magazine, and even general-interest weeklies with vast reach such as The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. They are onto something: The British press had marveled at poetry that could win critical notice in The New Yorker and rack up , views on YouTube. Its ascendancy has raised poetically energizing questions about identity. The speaker finds a centipede near her writing desk. They strain to think anew about selfhood and group membership. Long Soldier goes further: Of course they have: They call the police, three squad cars appear, and an officer begins interrogating. But mainstreaming rarely happens without turbulence. In December, her play, BLKS, about four something black women living in Brooklyn and looking for love, opened to glowing reviews at the Steppenwolf Theatre, in Chicago, and will move off-Broadway next spring.
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