Tag Archives: poetry

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

“what sad people do when they are lonely looks a lot like me at the grocery store…” – Sabrina Benaim The Loneliest Sweet Potato

15 Aug

Depression&OtherMagicTricks

I was first drawn to Sabrina Benaim’s Depression and Other Magic Tricks by YouTube’s Button Poetry trending spoken word/poetry video called “The Loneliest Sweet Potato”.  You can borrow Depression and other Magic Tricks from BCCLS Libraries.

While I don’t think this is a book suited for everyone’s taste in prose, I do admit there is some raw humanity in a lot of the pages within this book. Whether it’s the title of a poem that impacts you more than the poem itself or if it’s one line that stands out within the mix of pages. This book is worth a glance, even if only to find that one line that’ll resonate deeply within you.

For example, the first page reads “what you see is what you get, / but that’s not all there is.”

This alone intrigued me because it is so true and yet can feel so false. To some people – in my opinion – what you see of course is not what you get as we are all just charading through everyday life trying to portray even if only a glimpse of who we are to those around us. Just as the iceberg analogy I’m sure everyone has heard, that you only see 10% of it and 90% of it is below the surface. This statement is very much relatable to many people. But I know there can be people that may not relate to this statement, and I think that is something so powerful and intriguing that it beguiles me. Whether or not the majority truly believe in their own belief – or if it’s just a reactional state dependent on past circumstances that have caused them to feel such a way – is still remarkable. This, I feel, is what draws attention to the question “what is one’s reality?” or “what is one’s truth?”

On a separate scale I also felt drawn to another poem on page 35 titled “gravity speaks” and it reads “if i am holding you without hands, / how am i supposed to let go?”

This statement/question feels so profound to me and though it makes absolute sense because the title is “gravity speaks” it can also go much deeper than just the literal.

Gravity is a force, a natural phenomenon, so by definition it makes sense for it to be something you can feel without feeling. But what about love? What about God? What about supernatural? Some can say that these are also phenomena that can be held without holding. It’s all about what one claims as their reality.

Sabrina Benaim’s Depression and other Magic Tricks is worth a comb through. If not for the sake of poetry, then for the sake of reality.

Written by:
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

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