Selected by Louise Glück for the 2009 Yales Series of Younger Poets

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These poems of maturation chronicle the poet’s relationship with his immigrant family and his unknowing attempt to recapture the unity of youth through comically doomed love affairs that evaporate before they start. Hungrily eclectic, the wry and emotionally piercing poems in this collection steal the forms of the shooting script, blues song, novel, memoir, essay, logical disputation, aphorism—even classical Chinese poetry in translation. But as contest judge Louise Glück notes in her foreword, “The miracle of this book is the degree to which Ken Chen manages to be both exhilaratingly modern (anti-catharsis, anti-epiphany) while at the same time never losing his attachment to voice, and the implicit claims of voice: these are poems of intense feeling. . . . Like only the best poets, Ken Chen makes with his voice a new category.”

“Selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, Ken Chen’s debut, Juvenilia, engages the notion of artistic expression as process of maturation: the speaker reaches to the memory of his youth (the past) to construct a portrait of what colors his adult world view (the present). Juvenilia is a wonderful debut, simultaneously devastating and beautiful.” —Rigoberto Gonzalez in The Poetry Foundation

“Winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, Ken Chen’s first book walks the high wire between deeply felt trauma and poetic artifact…. In her illuminating foreword, Louise Glück writes, “immigrant displacement . . . [is] a metaphor for the adult’s relation to his childhood, or origins.” Pursuing this trope—the centrality of which explains why Juvenilia lays claim to our whole attention, intellectual and emotional—Chen delivers a memorable, beautiful-yet-sly, powerful debut.” —Sumita Chakraborty in the Boston Review of Books

“Chen is ‘experimental’ in the best and broadest sense of the term: each new page brings an experiment in self-presentation… [Chen] deserves attention for his daring invention, for [his] heretofore unknown hybrids.” —Publishers Weekly

“I cannot think of another young poet who writes so palpably, ingenuously about love.” —Ron Slate in Quarterly Conversation

“In his award-winning debut, Ken Chen draws on techniques from filmmaking… irresistible, strange and swift in its movements… funny and deadpan… Juvenilia is an inventive exploration of identity in transition.” —Karen Rigby in Rain Taxi

“Somber yet playful, self-disparaging yet hopeful…” —Abigail Licad in Hyphen