Image of an Asian man with shoulder length hair: Ken Chen, Associate Director of Creative Writing

Ken Chen

Assistant Professor, Associate Director of Creative Writing      




423 Barnard Hall
R 10:20-10:50am & 4-4:30pm; F 2-3pm via Zoom


Ken Chen is an Assistant Professor and the Associate Director of Creative Writing at Barnard College. His poetry collection Juvenilia was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award by Louise Glück, who wrote “Like only the best poets, Ken Chen makes with his voice a new category.” His forthcoming book, tentatively titled Death Star, follows his journey to the underworld to rescue his father and his encounters there with those destroyed by colonialism. 

Chen has received fellowships from the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. His nonfiction work has been published in Best American EssaysN+1The New RepublicFriezeThe New InquiryPoetry, and NPR’s All Things Considered. He is represented by The Wylie Agency.

Chen served as the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop from 2008 to 2019. He has worked as a consultant for numerous organizations, including Creative Capital, the New York Community Trust, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Book Foundation, for which he served as a National Book Award Judge. He also co-founded the cultural website Arts & Letters Daily and CultureStrike, a national arts organization dedicated to migrant justice. He currently serves as a co-editor of the Spatial Species imprint for Coffee House Press and Editor at Large for Astra, a magazine of international literature. 

He has been quoted in NPR’s All Things Considered, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. A graduate of Yale Law School, he successfully defended the asylum application of an undocumented Muslim high school student from Guinea detained by Homeland Security.

  • Yale Law School: J.D.
  • U.C. Berkeley: B.A., English.

  • Fiction and Personal Narrative
  • Advanced Poetry Writing II

  • Poetry
  • Arts of the Essay
  • Experimental Literature
  • Modernism
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Asian American Literature


  • Juvenilia, selected by Louise Glück for the 2009 Yales Series of Younger Poets




  • Coeditor of Spatial Species imprint for Coffee House Press with Youmna Chlala (2018 to present).
  • Editor at Large, Astra Quarterly, a magazine of international literature.  
  • Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 2008 to 2019. 
  • Lead Panelist, Literature, Creative Capital (2019-2020, 2020-2021).
  • Judge for Literary Arts Emergency Fund, administered by National Book Foundation (2020).
  • Judge for Poet Laureate Fellowship, Academy of American Poets (2020).
  • Judge for Vilcek Prize in Literature, awarded to Edwidge Danticat (2020).
  • Judge for National Book Award in Poetry (2018).
  • Steering committee member of LitTap (2012-2014), an effort to build NYC literature nonprofits.
  • National Book Foundation After-Party and Junior Board (2013-2019).
  • Lead Adviser for MOSAIC, 2018-2019, a multi-foundation project to fund arts groups run by people of color. 
  • Steering committee, LitNet, a national coalition of literary arts nonprofits, 2014-2016. 
  • Adviser for Yale University Press Margellos World Republic of Letters (2011-2018)
  • Brooklyn Book Festival poetry committee (2012, 2011) and Poetry Coalition (2016-2018).
  • Editor of Pen America’s Pen Ten series: curated interviews featuring women of color (2015-2018).
  • Co-founder & Steering Committee Chair, CultureStrike, 2010 to 2019
  • Culture Editor, Arts & Letters Daily, Fall 1998 to Fall 2000

  • Cullman Fellow in Poetry, New York Public Library (Sep. 2019 to August 2020)
  • The Bess Hokin Prize for best poem in Poetry magazine for “Locate” (2019)
  • Named one of the top 100 people in Brooklyn culture by Brooklyn magazine (2016)
  • Poetry Fellow - National Endowment for the Arts (2012)
  • Poetry Fellow - New York Foundation for the Arts (2011)
  • John Ciardi Poetry Fellow Bread Loaf Writers Conference (2010)
  • “City Out of Breath” in Best American Essays 2006 (Mariner 2006)