top of page
The cover of the poetry collection Unearthings. The cover is a shaded red in pastels, with the title and author's name at the bottom.


2018 (Tavern Books)



This poetry collection unfolds by way of an elegant, steadfast voice that is unafraid to confront the complexities of cultural, ancestral, and familial inheritance. Exploring her identity as an Asian American woman, Chen deftly negotiates the body and its archives, summoning and exorcising the ghosts therein. 


“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, author of The Liar's Club


“Wendy Chen’s Unearthings does something to you as you move through its pages. She is a special poet with a raw and important power that is evidenced early and often in her debut. Read this book. Let it wash over you. You’ll be better for it.” —Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black and Chain-Gang All-Stars


“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


“One way to read Chen’s book is as an arresting new point in a line of postconfessional poets (like Anne Carson or Monica Youn) who consider the tangle of emotions within close relationships.” —Harvard Review


“In Unearthings, the beautiful, intelligent prose carries naturally melody, articulate musicality and lyricism, revealing a narrator’s lifelong journey, a key to the past.” —Pleiades


“Chen’s language echoes from the page to the mind, because it is so clear. Nothing is wasted on pretenses – the language is beautiful and lyrical, but it has a marvelous momentum and tells only the truth.” —Atticus Review


“In her debut poetry collection Unearthings, Wendy Chen muses on important issues of history, gender and race through her sincere, often minimalist, poetry.” —CHA: An Asian Literary Journal


“Unearthings acknowledges these moments of deep sorrow and rage alongside moments of love…” —4squarereview


“As much as Wendy Chen’s Unearthings exhumes her family’s history and the secrets that come with it, the collection does more to pave the way for a new generation to move beyond the mistakes of the past, allowing these speakers’ voices to celebrate the future’s possibility.” —AMRI


“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

bottom of page