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Evocative, Funny and Heartbreaking: Chen Chen – “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities”

22 May

ChenChenFurtherPossibilities
With April having been National Poetry Month, May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and June being LGBT History Month, I thought I’d share a book that intersects all of these themes. Presenting: Chen Chen’s “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.”

Whenever I express my love for poetry, I tend to get the same reaction every single time – a look of horror. It’s understandable why. In school, we are usually taught old, hard-to-read poems. The vocabulary is hard to grasp, it’s hard to relate to and there is a constant pressure to analyze, analyze, analyze. That’s enough to swear anyone off poetry.

But shunning all of poetry is a loss. Like music, there’s always something for everyone. Contemporary poetry is rising in popularity and thankfully there is a diverse group of poets that are leading the way, telling stories that would have been silenced or relegated to obscurity in the past, and opening doors for future voices to be heard.

In “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities,” Chen Chen’s poems are evocative, funny and heartbreaking. Here’s an excerpt from the title poem:

To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last

inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice

for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be

no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China

for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go

fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say

their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,

can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—

a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.

Chen Chen writes beautifully about love, family, rejection, as well as queer and Asian American experiences. “When I Grow Up” is an accessible and well-written collection that not only acts as a good introduction to contemporary poetry, but has the ability to reach out to those who may feel invisible due to their race, sexuality, or other characteristic they feel defines them.

Besides being available in print from the Hoboken Library, Hoboken resident library card holders can borrow an ebook copy from Hoopla!

Do you have a favorite poet or book of poems?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by:
Samantha Evaristo

The Question of Youth vs Young: P.S. I Love You

15 May


What is the difference really? I love challenging subjective vs norm definitions.

Recently I found myself re-watching a movie called P.S. I Love You. A little background without spoilers, it’s basically a rom com film about a woman who loses her husband too early in life and for his last act of love he left her birthday gifts to come for after he passed that she could follow in order to help her cope with his loss.

What I find interesting is how you can watch movies so many times in life and certain things won’t hit you until you’ve reached a certain age or gone through something in life that’ll make a single statement you once brushed off seem so deep and relevant to you.

There is this scene in the movie where the female protagonist is talking to a male costar and he says:

“We’re so arrogant, aren’t we? So afraid of age, we do everything we can to prevent it. We don’t realize what a privilege it is to grow old with someone. Someone who doesn’t drive you to commit murder or doesn’t humiliate you beyond repair.”

It just so happens that this quote comes directly from the book P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern. This alone brings me that aha moment because it survived the process of scripting and not only made it to the big screen, but it also made an impression on me. So, it is this very line that lit a spark in that dark corner of my mind that almost laid unoccupied.

It’s an interesting observation. So simple and yet so fleeting to some – but so deep and just hit me right in the feels. We forget sometimes how grateful we should be to live. We try so hard to fight it, ultimately wasting our time and life preventing us actually living so that we can live longer. Doesn’t that just get you right in the chest? The irony that most of our adult lives we spend trying to stay younger, look younger, when we should realize that really growing old is the best gift we can be given.

To interject but also make my point in a different way – there’s this line in this song by Adam Levine that I heard in a movie called Begin Again, but you may also get it on CD – both from the motion picture soundtrack or from Maroon 5’s album V.

“God, tell us the reason youth is wasted on the young” from “Lost Stars” by Adam Levine

Books like Cracking the Aging Code: The New Science of Growing Old – and What It Means for Staying Young by Josh Mitteldorf or The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa are available from BCCLS libraries. But doesn’t the question really stand, “What makes you young?”

We live in this world where youth and being young is basically something to worship and idolized. But we forget the value and the gratitude one should have to be able to grow old. To experience and learn.

Why is youth wasted on the young? Such an inane question but it strikes true and then sparks another question, what is youth? But aren’t we all existing and growing and developing until we aren’t anymore? Aren’t we all youth? Constantly maturing.  Watch or read P.S. I Love You and see what you think!  You can borrow it as an ebook from eLibraryNJ.  Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite book about aging or what it means to be young.

Written by:
Sherissa Salas
Adult Programming Assistant

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