Ching-In Chen: 52 Condensed Pages of a Collaged Manifesto {Side A}

Dear lovelies:

You are receiving this invitation because the fabulously and variously talented Barbara Jane Reyes and Oscar Bermeo have asked me to submit a poetics manifesto for Doveglion Press.

(For more on what a manifesto entails, go to: or check out the amazing manifestos of my writing peers)

As I’ve been thinking about what makes up my poetry and creative work, I have always been surrounded by strong community and collaboration, pulling from what’s around me, the work of my peers and also the lineage of artists who have come before.I wanted to write this poetics manifesto using, altering, collaging, sampling remixing the words and fragments of you who are in my life.  If you got this e-mail, perhaps you have collaborated with me in the past, or you belong to one of my communities, or are in the constellation of my life, or I am curious about you.  Whatever it was, your energy surfaced for me in this moment.In pulling from the lineage of artists who have come before, I am following in the footsteps of:

Doug Kearney —
Myung Mi Kim —
Orlando White —
Claudia Rankine —
Cathy Park Hong —
Gloria Anzaldua —
Larissa Lai & Rita Wong —
Noah Purifoy —
Catalina Cariaga —
Layli LongSoldier —
Betye Saar —
Juan Felipe Herrera —
Akilah Oliver —
Kimiko Hahn —
Sharon Bridgforth —
Lily Hoang —
* Check them out if you haven’t before:-)

I am also thinking of Bhanu Kapil’s brilliant book, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers. Over many years, she asked a series of South Asian women she met randomly (on the street, in the airport, in the subway) a series of 12 questions, recorded them in notebooks and then wrote a beautiful hybrid book which “contains words, lines, sentences, fragments, stories, phonemes and images taken from those notebooks.”  This audio clip features Bhanu Kapil talking about the origins of The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers and reading from the project:

So what does this mean for you?  If you would like to participate, please respond with a YES.  I will then send you 12 open-ended questions.  You can answer in whichever way you are moved to — off-the-cuff, improvisationally, in deep meditation, whichever feels right to you.


How will you begin? — Bhanu Kapil

I have been thinking about stairs, leaving
one place moving
with fingers on the home row, or by removing
an article of clothing.  In order to get close to flying,
slowly.  With my thumb
on the record player, listening very closely to the whispers.

Is your life good? What do you do with it, and how do you feel about that?  — Sesshu Foster

The ice rink today had good
ice.  The mirror in the Target changing
room told me to keep
doing important things.  In the past
I have lived in very toxic
places.  If you don’t know much

about orchids, all conditions
correct, most important they need to be left

alone.   Here:

I am always searching for the perfect
green mango of my childhood, and I come close
in Asian stores, even the jarred, pickled ones
imported from my country, and then I go home

and know that I can never find it anywhere else. …………………I memorize formulas, I weigh herbs, I interpret over the phone, I do intakes, I feel you where it hurts, and where it does not hurt.  I feel myself where it hurts.  Colonized for 500 years, I now own a master key to the collective shackle. I help children remember the name

they had before they were given a name.  Given the space to chisel words onto the surface of sky,

I am occasionally afforded a disco break.  I watch the cars go by this Midwestern suburb.  I tap needles down your back.  It’s getting easier these days.  I feel surprised, how much I do not miss

what I left behind.  I talk

to the same person everyday.  We sleep and wake up, and I like the way

it smells, our sleeping and waking.

… in the company of language that has been met with potential erasure; what happens in that kind of collaboration between the impossibility of utterance and finding the means by which to utter?   — Myung Mi Kim

We each a self induced Mandala
intersection of six languages – five
broken, one which “pass”
as fluent – but none fully
home.  Travel
start with grief and despair, glimmers of meaning
seeded in you from the very beginning.  Practice, revelation,
groping towards fluency, amnesia that comes with loss.

A circular narrative unstrung

What we say builds us
To live is an act of erasure

I don’t know.

Sit down by a fire.

Breath brew, air whisper

to dust oil lamps
he bought at antique stores. He wipes them clean.

There is a word for this. I think. Anomia. A severe problem with recalling words or names. Or dysnomia.

Only ten minutes pass. He sees his carving
someone must love someone just enough to dig without shovels.

How many generations does it take to heal? Two, three, twenty? By writing through a rupture, can one hope to get across it?  — Pam Lu

unannounced, sometimes by invitation, sometimes as a gift

If you are expecting me to surrender my wounds, I won’t.  Fever
leads to immunity.

part of the fabric, I am not an artist who loves solitude.
And yes, one can row a boat across a canal putting pen to page, I’ve crossed

time with my hands bound, only to realize that time itself is a fog of circumstance. I wandered. I once saw myself making rope, shaping bullwhisps.

His mother asks him if he’s with anyone. But he has all sorts of projects that doesn’t involve making babies; babysitting, for example.

to write something that will heal
all fourteen generations of my father’s traceable genealogy, I don’t know

if I can meet that ambition.


You the only hope that will make it happen.

How do we navigate these buried maps? How do we locate our own native meridians? How do we measure our own time and space? — Craig Santos Perez

With a wounded, bleeding finger, sheet metal, ramen noodles, wool socks, sheet music, old books and letters, fragments of half-knit

things. Sometimes

like walking in a room full

of empty chairs and knowing which chair
will be the right one, not because
you can see where
sitting still will take you, but because you can imagine who
will speak how, where the best place to see a piano player’s hands is, how

far forward the rest of the listeners will sit. Knowing something is out there, deeper than your feet, deeper than potatoes, maybe deeper than the frost line. We locate

them after living for a while, missing things, piecing things together, asking questions, feeling sick in different parts of the body, losing things and people, going to strange places, being a stranger and a shadow.  I am furious.

Not sure how to navigate that all the time.
The ways that “manners and politeness” have paralyzed me.

closing our eyes, picturing our spine.  Despite using a level and copious amounts of tape measure, I could not make everything seem completely right.  Take a parabola (or mountain or a bowl of rice or breast or wave). Let Pleasure be the point, this apex, where the curve changes direction. Call this point Equilibrium. All other points is Pain: bees on the ground, car-alarm mockingbirds.
Somehow the ground of the building is crooked, and the painted line up top is skewed.  My body is cluttered with doors I spit out and open one after another

to you after another.

What if lineage is a line of lit fuel? — Michelle Naka Pierce

Then many of us are on fire.

Gasoline.   I am a trough of gunpowder.  I am carbohydrate.

Pour flames. (This is me acting before i think.) Pour more flames and let that which doesn’t elevate be burned and its ashes conceive new trees; new beings. (Now I’m thinking.) If the lineage consumes too much, then walk away, build a safe space, study the heart of the fire that’s too consuming, but more importantly study your own, decode it, take what you need to continue and contribute to the lineage. She should only approach, while hearing her own waving flame.

My paternal grandmother will someday come to me from her dead place and invite me to butter the turkey with her, our small hands inserting pats of gold under tight skin. She will cry instead of making small talk.

If you are fuel, you cannot also be water, as much as you might want to be already ashes.

But then the work breaks down again: how do you recombine these “parts” — these fragments — that were disseminated under brutal conditions? — Bhanu Kapil

A. Steal two turntables and a p.a. system from your uncle’s garage.  Slowly, with my thumb on the record.  (see first question)
B. Rig a lamp post to get yourself some juice.
C. Put up flyers at the bodega, the rec center, and the 6 train.  Paste and light them up.
D. Wait for the crowd to gather.
E. Pump the music and bump until the cops break up the party.
(See: Kool Herc, KRS-One, and Afrika Bambaataa)

But we had such ordinary love between us: coffee, walking the dog, cocktails, making meals, having friends over. I understood love to mean wanting our tessellated days to continue.

Some brutalities are unspeakable, and we shouldn’t force ourselves to speak of them.

So if we were each in our silent, cordial, distrust of each other, we were stubbornly ordinary in our love. On a trip to San Diego, we made several U-turns, but we arrived in the end. When on the 5 freeway I said look, ocean, she handed me her hand lotion; we were each of us at least two people in our preoccupations.

no division between wave and ocean.

We laughed our way back into one bodies.
We grow together and whole again after the breakage.

How long can I sit and be attentive when the world is blowing up? –-Myung Mi Kim

This depends on how well you are trained.
my kali instructor Gura Bautista spoke about life as concentric circles.
And if you survive, that’s not fair — if you ask a Buddhist this question, you may get a real answer.

What is the recombinant energy created between languages (geopolitical economics, cultural representations, concepts of community)? — Myung Mi Kim

His mother lives in Hong Kong with his brother.

behind a bright red velvet curtain with broadway tunes, Chinese opera, jazz, voices yelling at a rally, fists raised, and girls with glasses using electronic devices to Wikipedia questions about their origin.
The most he does is to call his mother twice a week and his brother about once a month.

Das unheimliche ist verborgen.

visits maybe once a year ……….saves money for her retirement.

I heard today that a saxophonist died.  He thinks he can do more, and more; isn’t it weakness to be unwilling

Are your feelings somebody else’s ideas? — Sesshu Foster

These feelings
…..demons, skeletons, baggage and other decaying dead weight that find their way and anchor themselves in
I borrowed them from the library and will return them with all late fees paid once my name is transferred from energy to artifact.

If I go to Taiwan now, I’d be arrested to fulfill two years of mandatory military service, being told what to do, push-ups maybe, in a language I don’t understand.

I believe in recycling.  I have no feelings besides those programmed into my robot matrices.

If I go back to Japan, I would hate how street signs aren’t as large and red as I remember them, the road from our San no Maru Danchi apartment flat to Najima primary school not as long.

I can’t live without you, lover.  Or I would hate wanting Fukuoka to be something else. What of feeling after break?

If I go live in Hong Kong, I’d be neither resident nor visitant, port and floating. If I stay here, I shall be provincial in all its glorious dialectic toward universal by pressing against the individual.  I’m crowded with ideas.

How to touch a native feeling?  But who really knows? Right now I’m stuck to Gloria Anzaldua poster on my wall.  Tomorrow, perhaps an earthquake, or ICE knocking at my door. Tomorrow perhaps an illness or lottery. Tomorrow a remembered pain or new limb.

What word could mark the change in me? What word could help me get to the other side? — Tina Bartolome

Give me words, please.

Belisa Crespusculario of Isabelle Allende’s Eva Luna stories.  I always wanted to be that super hero.  Ani minikway dah makadaymushkikiwaboo.  Since I don’t know which side you are trying to get to, it is a difficult question to answer.

And then kinnickinnick, of course.   🙂

What are the consequences of silence? — Bhanu Kapil

An unmade bed,
the firing squad,
an island annihilated by a pipeline,

Somebody else will ask all the questions which will be written with indelible ink on scrolls stained with tea, to make them look ancient.

Then again so can danger.
Your stomach rumbles.

a razed jungle,

Somebody else will present your answers and frame them in non-reflective glass.

exploding tea kettles,
the extinction of ritual,
a rave review in the New York Times,
a question festering into a cancer,
a water supply privatized,
a magnificent mural adorning the Westside,
The Patriot Act,
an apology,
and lovers remembering together that
they are the center of the universe.

When you raise your hand, somebody will call on you, and your answers will be broadcast, but not in your name.  You will wish that instead of raising your hand in the air, you had simply held hands with the black-haired girl, wearing glasses, sitting next to you.  She is listening:

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press) and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press). She is a Kundiman and Lambda Fellow and part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. She has worked in the San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston Asian American communities. Ching-In currently lives in Milwaukee and is involved in union organizing and direct action.

Collaborators/Participants: Todd Wellman, Constance Lee, Aimee Lee, Lily Wong, Vincent Toro, Carina Farrero, Kyla Searle, Monica A. Hand, Susu Pianchupattana, Serena W. Lin, James Autio, Vanessa Huang, Shiaw-Tian Liaw, Porschia L.  Baker, Nan Ma, Noel Pabillo Mariano, Stacia M. Fleegal, Joy Mariama Smith, Rona Luo, Evangeline Ganaden, Jie Tian, Dalila Paola Mendez, Kimberly Zarate.  Translation assistance: Monika Maria Schultes, Cheng-Hsing Chen.

[Photo credit: Sarah Grant]

  • Print
  • email
  • PDF
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Buzz
  • Digg
  • NewsVine
  • Tumblr

12 Thoughts on “Ching-In Chen: 52 Condensed Pages of a Collaged Manifesto {Side A}

  1. Daniel Farias on July 18, 2011 at 11:51 pm said:


  2. Yeah, sure Okay! Affirmative! Why not? What do I got to lose? YESSS!

  3. Elaine on July 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm said:

    I want to participate!

    • Yes! I’m still choreographing Side B this week — so if you want to participate & this works within your timeframe, send me an e-mail!


  4. Joan Coyote on July 19, 2011 at 10:56 pm said:

    I would like to participate. James invited me.


    Here is the YES

  5. Ching-In, thanks so much for this beautiful manifesto. The imagery is startling, and I love what you fused, as I am sure I will love all the spare parts you used to fuse it. Thank you for including me as a collaborator! Hugs, Serena

  6. Pingback: Summer Slouch AKA I don’t want this blog to die… | Rachelle Cruz

  7. evie on July 21, 2011 at 7:32 am said:


    thanks for pulling together so much goodness and insight in one place — deeply appreciated.


  8. Pingback: Collaborative Manifesto Remix! « Sunslick Starfish

  9. Pingback: I decided to take a journey… « Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation