In Unearthings, a deep privacy radiates from family dinners and theaters to the larger rings of gender, race, and history. Chen’s stories of isolation, exile, and emigration are an American experience difficult to ignore. Exploring her identity as an Asian American woman, Chen deftly negotiates the body and its archives, summoning and exorcising the ghosts within. Unearthings is a parade of sortsthrough her work, she breaks silences that are expected and enforced.

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“From the beautiful and horrible bindings and boundaries of family and history (both public and private), Wendy Chen has fashioned an unputdownable marvel of a collection. Unearthings is clear as spring water and fast-moving and baptismal in its ice and fire. Chen will say anything so long as it’s both beautiful and true. Hers is a singular voice—lyrical and smart and wise, and I predict this book will echo in all of us for ages to come. A dazzling debut and this year’s must-read book of poetry.” Mary Karr


“Chen’s sense of history is reason enough to appreciate her poetry, but equally thrilling is her language. Her skill as an image-maker and her sense of space (it’s interesting that she’s also a visual artist) allow her to write the sort of lines that remind me of good guitar licks because they offer both their own independent pleasures and, at the same time, complement the greater work.” The Rumpus


“From its opening lines, Unearthings insists the reader becomes aware of both a personal and collective body.” Ghost Proposal


“Wendy Chen’s first book is breathtaking, a voice already fully formed, candid about the nuances of personal experience and bitingly persuasive on matters of public consequence. This is a rare thing, the arrival of a genuine poet, a passionate intelligence, with a keen ear and unfailingly heartfelt imagination.” Brooks Haxton


“Not furious, but bent, torqued with grief and with a quiet but thorough reckoning of history [1967, 1944] and its legacy of ghosts and ‘awful particles’ that come to inform the subsequent generations. Wendy Chen’s book is full of sensual recognitions that are also incisive, questioning that is also an invitation into its recesses. If silence is historical or cultural safety, saying in Unearthings risks all. She’s written the ‘ligatures’ for Madame Butterfly: musical, surgical binding of body of the Asian woman to the performance of a faceless [white] self. ‘The Encounter’ and ‘Ordinary Clamor’ are extraordinary poems I call your attention to, but this entire first book is a rare one to be celebrated.” Bruce Smith