“Words” was inspired by my conversations with my mother in Chinese; speaking Chinese also happens to be the way I became fluent in the language. I wrote this poem with the thought in mind that sometimes, the sheer power of my mother’s Chinese words makes it difficult for me to respond to her, even in English. Even in your first language, it is difficult to find the right words to say when faced with your mother and her mother tongue.


Karen Chen is a 17 year old from New York City, New York. Her writing has been honored regionally and nationally by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards; in 2016, she was an American Voices Nominee. She was also a winner of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Promising Young Writers Program in 2013. In addition, she is a monthly columnist for English Salon magazine, which is a publication used in many schools in China as a high-level academic resource that teaches English to high schoolers. Her work has been published in Visceral Brooklyn and is forthcoming in Yo-NEW YORK! In her spare time, Karen enjoys reading, fencing, and doing math.