#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Ching-In Chen

AWP | March 2019

Event Title: Coloring Outside the Gender Binary: How Transgender Poets are Redefining What It Means to Be Human, Sponsored by AWP
Description: Until very recently, the English language, and most of the poetry written in it, has been based on the gender binary assumption that all human beings are always, either, and only male or female, as determined by the sex of their bodies at birth. We see this assumption at work in the traditional system of gendered pronouns and honorifics, in words for our most intimate roles and relationships, which designate parents as mothers or fathers, children as daughters or sons, and so on, and in subtler habits that reflect and reinforce the idea that human beings are born and remain simply male or female.
Participants: Ching-In Chen, Joy Ladin, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Max Wolf Valerio
Location: Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Date & Time: Saturday, March 30, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.


What are some of the conference events or Bookfair exhibitors you look forward to seeing at AWP?
In the last few years, I have had more neurodivergent students in my face-to-face and online classrooms—I’m looking forward to attending the “Invisible Disabilities, Necessary Supports” panel to think through more strategies about how to better design my classes to better include these students. Also, the tribute to the much-missed Monica A. Hand and the “Both, Neither, and Something Else Entirely: Genderqueer Writers & Writing” panel.

If you’ve been to an AWP before, what is your favorite conference memory?
I loved the high energy, fun, and community gathered at last year’s Kundiman, Kaya Press & Asian American Literary Review Literaoke event. Even though I had just about lost my voice by that last night, I was lifted by all the love and camaraderie in the room.

What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A hybrid forms workshop I taught had me revisiting some favorites which have been foundational texts for me – Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza and Deborah A. Miranda’s Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir. Other recommendations are texts which opened up windows I didn’t realize existed or was searching for – Gabriel Ojeda-Sague’s Jazzercise is a Language, Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s M Archive: After the End of the World, jia qing wilson-yang’s Small Beauty, Philip Metres’s Sand Opera, Eva Saulitis’s Prayer in Wind, and Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life.

Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
Absolutely. I have been directly supported as an artist via grants for creative projects. As a curator, I’ve used public funding to pay for artist stipends/fees, travel, and other costs of organizing public poetry readings as well as publications. As a reader/audience member, I have benefited greatly from being able to witness/experience literary readings, arts exhibits, installations, and performances which have been supported by public funding.

If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP19, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, because I consider her one of the first literary ancestors who cracked open for me what was possible with language, experiment, the object of a book. Instead of having a “talking” conversation, I’d love to share a cup of tea and a silent gathering moment with her.

If you’ve been to Portland before, what places do you recommend that our attendees should visit?
It’s been awhile, but I remember Portland as a very green and beautiful city. If you’re able to get out of the city, go visit Multnomah Falls, a breathtaking 611-foot waterfall (about 30 minutes outside of the city).


Ching-In Chen Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart's Traffic and recombinant (2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry). Chen is coeditor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here Is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. They received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat, and Storyknife, and are part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A poetry editor of the Texas Review, they teach at Sam Houston State University. chinginchen.com
(Photo Credit: Cassie Mira Nicholson)

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