kaya publishes books of the asian pacific diaspora

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Lisa Chen

Lisa Chen was born in Taipei, Taiwan. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Iowa. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a freelance writer and editor.




Kaya Press 2007

Mouth, Lisa Chen’s debut collection of poetry, travels from parachute girls in Millbrae to Ezequiel the murderer at a border town, creating a cartography of geographic and bodily landscapes whose distances are measured by languages. As if wandering from place to place, Chen dabbles in different poetic forms, but always, words here confuse and betray, mouths eat and are eaten. Mouth is an elegiac love song to the mundane horrors of loss – genocide, heartbreak, revolution, exile. Yet, like Diane Arbus’ photos, Chen’s poems exude a mix of humor and pleasure, highlighting beauty in the perverse, and the perverse in the everyday. She gives voice to things that occur below the level of hearing or just beyond our notice—fragments of translated stories, unanswered bits of conversations, the mute assertiveness of a room.


“This book is wild, playful, gorgeous, weird, often hip. Reading it, I kept thinking, I wish I had come up with this phrase, this line, that entire poem, and that one, and that one, and that one…”
— Linh Dinh, author of Jam Alerts

“I looked up once, a big redtailed hawk swooping overhead, the wind it was riding ruffling feathers along the edge of its wing. Lisa Chen’s poetry pleases and astonishes me with that display of thrilling senses—other spirits appear unexpectedly in hovering bright mid-air, ordinal forces and natural realities indexed at play in the moment, articulated in rapt intelligence of language. Flashy and eerie, ordinate and inordinate, I am grateful Mouth startles with soulful complexity, Lisa Chen opening the verbal moment into fluent, quick gesture.”
— Sesshu Foster, author of Atomik Aztex

Lisa Chen news

Lisa Chen wins the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award 2018

Have the champagne ready! Lisa Chen, the author of Mouth (2007), wins the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award 2018. Sharing the recognition with five talented and inspiring women authors, the award recognizes Chen as an exceptional emerging writer. “Our award winners this year are an exciting and talented group of emergent women writers. Their writing is […]

Kaya Turns 20 in San Francisco

Kaya Press celebrates 20 years of publishing innovative Asian Pacific American and Asian diasporic literature in San Francisco, April 16 – 19, in conjunction with the Association for Asian American Studies Conference. Kaya 20th Anniversary Reading at City Lights Bookstore | Thursday April 17 | 7:30 p.m. | 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway Come to […]

Poetry Flash reviews Lisa Chen’s MOUTH

“If, as Lisa Chen herself advises in “Translator’s Apologia,” you “…Enter these pages with / The lowered expectations of a prison guard,” you may be pleasantly surprised by the pointed coherence that frequently emerges from Chen’s fantastic verbiage….” Here’s the complete review from POETRY FLASH’s “Mostly Books”, in April of 2010: A Porch Light at […]

Lisa Chen reading at UC Berkeley

Lisa Chen read at UC Berkeley’s acclaimed LUNCH POEMS Series! Watch it here: Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Lisa Chen earned a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from the University of Iowa. Her debut collection of poetry, mouth, received a 2009 award from the Association for Asian American Studies. Sesshu Foster says that mouth […]