Bookmarked: Ching-In Chen


Bookmarked is a  column in which writers give us their "shadow bibliographies" essentially, the books behind their books. Which books influenced their writing, and how?  Today's writer is Ching-In Chen, whose book recombinant is now available

When writing recombinant, a book which speculates on what Lisa Lowe calls “the intimacies of four continents,” I created a playlist of written texts, with a Bside of video in the understream to consider.


Like sediment, like layers which replicate, this book scatters history to grow the archives’ remains. Not the vein, but the little capillaries branching into the sea.




Dear Visitor,


            request a speculation on a history of your body:


            “As it happens in other lives, you come to me in secret.” - from Monica Ong’s Silent Anatomies:


                        {B-side track: the Indigenous Futurisms mixtape}



                                                            A history of my body in proximity:


                        “I carefully lift the lid/pour molasses/across the hammers/paint the strings/black sweet” - from Cheryl Savageau’s Mother/Land




            {B-side track: Jamila Woods’ “Holy”}



                                                                                    Let it be slippery and abridged, blue fish:


                                                 “And here one must step outside the figure. And here one must leap [dream signs, dream visions, and so forth].” - from Yona Harvey’s "A Natural History of My Disasters [abridged]": 


{B-side track: Zee Avi’s “Kantoi”}




                        Tell me a fragment, show me a secret ingredient slipped between gaps of memory:


            “Ginger is the one at the meeting who cuts through all the pointless arguments to say the short sharp thing that brings us back to purpose. Ginger clears fog from the brain. Ginger is the lover who looks at your malaise of self-doubt and insecurity and tells you to stop indulging yourself with reruns of the past, when your present is strong and sweet and spicy.” - from Aurora Levins Morales’s REMEDIOS: Stories of Earth and Iron from the History of Puertorriqueñas




{B-side track: Mendi + Keith Obadike’s “Coding the Crop/Browsing the Bush”}






                                    Even if only it were so …. if only we could ….


                                                “Even in the throes of what I choose to remember as love, my body felt the lines stretched between us, razor-sharp when pressed against the flesh.  I understood the limitations, the demarcations, the barbed-wire rules of such engagements” - from Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt



                                                            {B-side track: Anjimile’s “Rebellion”}



                        Even fissures … even memory ….


            “I murder the text, literally cut it into pieces, castrating verbs, suffocating adjectives, murdering nouns, throwing articles, prepositions, conjunctions overboard, jettisoning adverbs: I separate subject from verb, verb from object – create semantic mayhem, until my hands bloodied, from so much killing and cutting, reach into the stinking, eviscerated innards, and like, some seer, sangoma, or prophet who, having sacrificed an animal signs and portents of a new life, or simply life, reads the untold story that tells itself by not telling” - from M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!




{B-side track: Tanya Tagaq’s “Retribution”}



                                                Thread the loose, place the breaths close, attend to the ritual:

“The letter left on the kitchen table, signed your love,/ ‘This is an invitation.’ You both knew what it was.” - from Trish Salah,  Wanting in Arabic



                        {B-side track: Diamanda Galas’ “Let My People Go”}



To return to the question, dear ___:


            “Who are you and whom do you love?” - from Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Stranger:


                        {B-side track: Thao Nguyen’s “Bag of Hammers”}



Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart's Traffic and recombinant and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. A Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. They serve as the Texas Review’s poetry editor and on Thinking Its Presence: Race, Advocacy, Solidarity in the Arts’ Executive Board.