Charis welcomes Joshua Nguyen in conversation with Wo Chan for a celebration of Come Clean. Joshua Nguyen's sharp, songlike, and often experimental collection compartmentalizes past trauma—sexual and generational—through the quotidian. This event is co-hosted by Lambda Literary. Lambda Literary nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, elevating the impact of their words to create community, preserve our legacies, and affirm the value of our stories and our lives.
Poems aim to confront the speaker's past by physically, and mentally, cleaning up. Here, the Asian-American masculine interrogates the domestic space through the sensual and finds healing through family and in everyday rhythms: rinsing rice until the water runs clear, folding clean shirts, and attempts at re-creating an unwritten family recipe. Yet past wounds remain present like permanent marker under layers of paint or spilled fish sauce set into car upholstery. Infused with the Shinto-inspired organizing practices of KonMari and the catchy nihilism of Mitski's songs, the poems in Come Clean unpack, organize, and tidy up life's messy joys and hurtful chaos with intimacy, grace, and vulnerability.
No matter how smattered my insides, I am relieved that I left my room tidy—One less ugly sight.
I always wanted to die clean & pretty
while my dreams made music in the night.—Excerpt from "Last Words"
Joshua Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American writer, a collegiate national poetry slam champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He is the author of the chapbook, "American Lục Bát for My Mother" (Bull City Press, 2021) and has received fellowships from Kundiman, Tin House, Sundress Academy For The Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. He has been published in The Offing, Wildness, American Poetry Review, The Texas Review, Auburn Avenue, Crab Orchard Review, and Gulf Coast Mag. He has also been featured on both the "VS" podcast and Tracy K. Smith's, "The Slowdown". He is a bubble tea connoisseur and works in a kitchen. His debut poetry collection, "Come Clean" (Oct 5th 2021, University of Wisconsin Press), was the winner of the 2021 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. He is a PhD student at The University of Mississippi, where he also received his MFA.
Wo Chan (they/them) is a poet and drag performer. They are a winner of the 2020 Nightboat Poetry Prize and the author of TOGETHERNESS (May, 2022). Wo has received fellowships from MacDowell, New York Foundation of the Arts, Kundiman, The Asian American Writers Workshop, and Poets House. Wo is the Communications Manager at Lambda Literary and also the Editor of the Lambda Literary Review. Born in Macau, Wo currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Find them at @theillustriouspearl.
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Joshua Nguyen's sharp, songlike, and often experimental collection compartmentalizes past trauma—sexual and generational—through the quotidian. Poems aim to confront the speaker's past by physically, and mentally, cleaning up.