Poetry by Anna Chen

Multi Verse

Anna Chen Chi Chi's Glorious Swansong poetry, cover Caroline Grimshaw

Poetry by Anna Chen

Anna Chen’s Poetry page

From the personal to the political: selected poems from Anna’s collections, Reaching for my Gnu and Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“Assured, funny, angry, exhilarating … A triumph.” – Alan Moore

2B Or Not 2B

2B or not 2B: that is the pencil:
Whether it is nobblier in the line to scuff up
The springs and marrows of outmoded representation,
Or to take snaps upon the digital,
To sketch up the dawn of a rosy hue
Or to take lines of sea and rubble
And by Photoshopping, amend them? To dye:
To scumble the surface no more
But open a window on the world.
Depths and planes, impasto and light,
Vision and perspective.
Aye, there’s the rubbing out
For in that ghostly haze what dreams may bleed through
Our pixellated grasp of a sigh:
Who would facets bear in the lens of someone else’s eye?

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“… a strange rendezvous of language, wit, and the imagination. … She fully integrates the movingly personal, the vibrantly social and the diabolically political. Burning words, full of life and truth.” – Chris Searle, MORNING STAR

Kicking a Dinosaur

I kicked a dinosaur in the tail one day
I didn’t have to run away for five whole minutes.
It’s like when you stub your toe and you have time to smoke a fag,
read a paper and murmur,
this is really going to … OW!!!
Or like the time I undid the zipper of the new cushion,
expecting a sensible inner stocking of filler
as the existence of a zip implied.
A removable case, cleaning for the purposes of.
It lied.
Teeth disengaged. Guts disgorged.
I sat for the best part of a Jurassic era before the shock struck,
an electrical pulse crawling like wet cement
along the spinal column of lizard-girl,
stretching time til synapses fired their shots into basal nuclei
and words and pictures materialised,
juddering and sharpening
and melding into one Hallelujah revelation
had funnelled thousands of tiny grey balls
the size of dinosaurs’ brains
straight into the gaily patterned cushion cover
and they were now spilling all over me.

It was lucky I was wearing knickers
or I would have been pumping out
polystyrene pellets like ping-pong balls in Patpong
and there would be another cruel stereotype reinforced.
A bit like the picture taking shape in your mind’s eye
around about … now.

From Reaching for my Gnu

“Anna Chen’s talent is rare yet what she writes is in a long-standing tradition: as a poet she blends commentary on both the social and the political in sharp, vibrant, often cuttingly funny verse. Highly recommended!” – Jack Womack


Sometimes I get a hankering for something,
I don’t know, something bad for the planet, bad for me.
And then I realise
What I really need is a burger.
Not one of them posh Kobi cows massaged with beer,
I want a bum steer.
A meat patty off a stall outside the Albert Hall
Or cholesterol action from a top tourist attraction Should do me fine.
Tossed and fried on a smear of grime
Something that died before its time
Scraped off the floor at the scene of the crime

Gotta be one crawling with bacteria,
Hatful of scurf, gravy listeria.
One where the chef’s been to the loo,
A number one and a number two
And a number three if he fancies you.
No soap, black towel, a great big queue,
Cheesy smile, pokes his piles,
Drags his nails cross cracking tiles.
I want a burger that’s not cooked through,
Burnt outside with a pinkish hue,
Coughed on, sploshed on,
Kicked around and noshed on.
I want burger lurgy
A Shergar burger
A big fat fur burger
I’ve got ass burgers syndrome
I can’t relate to this.

Is it onions frying giving me the fits?
It’s the creatures dying in your onion pits
Cartilage and lard bringing on the squits
You don’t get enteritis dining at the Ritz

Chewing on a rat’s tail,
Crunchy cockroach entrails
Racing through my alimentary canal
I want a burger and I want it bad
I want the filthiest one you have.
And now I got the runs,
It’s messing with me puns,
It’s down to something nasty lurking in your buns.

Is that unreasonable?
It is ambrosia I seek
What d’ya mean you’re insulted?
You gave me one just like it last week.

From Reaching for my Gnu

Chi Chi's Glorious Swansong Poetry by Anna Chen, illustration by Richard JL Pope
Chi Chi Illustration by Richard JL Pope


I murmured Ohhhh and sighed,
You clicked your mandibles and writhed,
Shuddered round my pi r squared,
Ran your feelers through my silken hair.
Tendrils explored, slipped past my defences.
Do I look pretty in your multiple lenses?
A little more to the right, please, yeah, right there,
Where multiverse nerves strip myelin bare,
Shift your soft-tissue silicon shell
Just a little bit more, you do it so well.
Undercarriage slips across moistened skin,
Shivers and sinks right in.
Glistening membranes, two merging forms
Seeking shelter from galactic storms.

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“It’s saucy, devilish and delightful!” MY ASIAN PLANET

I See the Grass and the Daisies

We sat on the grass, my mother
making daisy chains for my long black hair,
like cables, she said.
Her May Queen, she called me,
as she picked up her lambkin, giggling and chubby with love,
and set me on the high place I mistook for a pedestal.
By the blaze of her blue eyes
I saw it was an altar to her spring rite,
cold stone and, as I reached for her, a flash of sharp metal.

Sat here on the sofa,
all time between swallowed,
you see me staring at the electronic window into the world,
but I am watching the grass and the daisies and waiting for them to cover me.

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“Anna Chen is fighting the good fight with fierce, funny, moving and sulphurous poems. You wouldn’t want to cross her, but you want to read her.” – Heathcote Williams

How “trickle-down economics” actually work … in poetry.

Margaret Thatcher Died at the Ritz

Margaret Thatcher died at the Ritz.
It fits. Her blitz on the poor,
national assets thrust into the mitts
of corporate bandits.
Wealth trickled-down like a horse shits
undigested grain for birds that flit
round what it is its rear end emits.
Compassion deficit, dried out tits,
the country in bits, run by greedy gits.
Her fans omit the price of crimes
her class commit.
Her legacy is the pits.
And she closed them as well.

Thatcher’s blue touchpaper stayed alight
til the nation was run by her acolytes.
She took a look round at pauperised Brits,
said, “My work here is done,” and called it quits.

Anna Chen – 8th April 2013

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“Superb. … Anna Chen’s poetry wears wet leathers, red lipstick, stilettos – and is heavily armed.” – Greg Palast, VICE MAGAZINE

Credit Crunch Suicide

I could have been a banker
Sitting on a ledge
High up on a skyscraper
Coz someone clipped my hedge

I could have been in business
In the city making bids
Take a shotgun to the wife and dogs
And then I’d do the kids

But I’m just a daily worker
About to lose my home
Savings all depleted
Can’t even get a loan

The bankers got their billions
The doggy got a bone
The millions got the wankers
Whose hearts are made of stone

I can cry into me drink
I can curse the gods above
I’d like to give that banker
A bleedin’ great big shove

Watch him splat upon the pavement
A human pizza pie
Coz that’s where I’ll be living
Until the day I die.

Anna Chen – 29 Oct 2008

From Reaching for my Gnu

“As a poet Anna Chen is brilliant and dangerous … she operates one wild-ride roller coaster that soars to altitudes of unfettered wit and then plunges with a startling and implacably knowing anger, stripping away pretence and pretension and targeting both ancient oppression and contemporary crime.” – Mick Farren

Tinderbox PLC: a poem for Grenfell Tower

At the hot point 
Of the turning world
A spark lit the flame
That caught the cladding
That burnt the facade
And threw a light
On the burned-out shell
Of the state of the State.
By Lucifer’s light, 
A glimpse of hell
Roiled and erupted. 
Two pounds of flesh 
Per shake of dice
No values known, 
Just the cheapest price
In modern Britain plc.

A giant with his fiery sword
Sliced and smote from the flash at four,
He slashed the night to twenty-three,
Dividing the world, rich and poor.
He made his mark, he slashed the dark
On the bias to the roof and higher, 
Earth to sky, sheer cliff of fire
Sliced the tower to light and ash
On one side life, the other a fire of flesh,
A cash-fuelled slomo waiting-room of death,
Each poisoned breath counting down
Lives extinguished but not the flames
Blackening air with soot and cinders. 
That is my neighbour, this is a mum,
There is the artist, those are children
Unto the last babe in tormented dreams 
Such horror wreaks and wrecks.
This is the state at the top of the heap,
What power sowed, the weakest reap.

Another slashed and burned for years
And turned a world upon its head,
A bonfire of red tape set in motion
A cascade of events, invisible, minuscule,
Each piling onto each in spidery increments.
Action group Cassandras screamed murders in waiting,
Grievous bodily profit with intent.
Lift a rock and see what crawls,
So many in the frame, your head spins,
The shitlist lengthens with every trawl,
Cash is cruel, cash is king:
National Grid gas pipes, the council, austerity, 
Stay Put, politicians, the construction industry …
Even Maggie Thatcher takes a bow
Her dishes are all cooked by now,
Her high rise cladding on simmer the year the miners struck,
No law now, just luck and the gift that keeps on giving,
She slashed and burned faster than the FR60
One-hour fire-hold rule she flamed,
Halted building, sold off social housing,
Health and safety not gone mad.
Just gone.

* * * *

Aberfan, Hillsborough, Grenfell Tower,
Who had the cash also had the power
To wrap Babel in plastic, for the view palled,
No thought for the living when the opera calls,
A class event, a bagatelle paid for with Grenfell rents,
Rip off the poorest, the system’s bent.
Gas pipes up the stairwell, smoke in the vents,
Alarms on the fritz, saved a few pence,
Water pressure failing, too little spent,
Retrofit sprinklers too high an expense
And on ignition, stay put was their best advice.
Two pounds of flesh per shake of dice
No values here, just the cheapest price.

The giant scrawled in smoke and flame
Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
But firefighters came in all the same
Through Bosch’s vision, the scorching Hotpoint near,
Over bodies they clambered, up clogging stairs 
Barely three feet wide, on a wing and a prayer
And an underfunded gulp of air.
The sullied air chokes but the horror is pure, 
Breathe deep and inhale fury and fear,
Cyanide, asbestos and your neighbours.
Which is the most toxic?
Down in your lungs even now
The death clock ticks, reset.

* * * *

Time was the enemy. 
Fire was the enemy.
Mammon was the enemy. 
The council was the enemy.
The management was the enemy.
The industry was the enemy.
The government was the enemy.
They sprung a trap, a trap was sprung.

Yet still we lived. Watching from an outer circle,
We were resourceful in those hours.
In our heads, at least, perhaps a car could provide a landing.
Could a mountain of mattresses soften the fall?
For these were no princesses on the pea
But cheeky, boisterous boys and girls. 
We wished a man could fly.
We wished for Superman, iced chunk of Thames in tow.
We wished a child could bounce,
That they weighed a quarter of an ounce.
We wished we could put gravity on hold 
Stretch this moment til an escape was found,
Slow down damn time til they reached the ground.
A thousand people prayed a million wishes:
For a Star Trek transporter to beam them away,
A fakir’s rope dropping as the gentle rain from heaven,
For wings to sprout, something miraculous to get them out.
A ladder! A tall ladder, a platform with a high pressure hose,
No, too fanciful when the giant slashes and fire stations close.

* * * *

Did those knotted blankets lead someone to safety
Or a dead end?
“I had my whole life ahead of me,” Gloria Trevisan told her mum.
And it was. 
Six and a half minutes with Rania Ibrahim
Is to take a trip to a dark side,
Her voice rings out truth everlasting.
Walk with her, it’s the least she deserves.
Walk with the Grenfell dead and soar with angels.
A bonfire of people followed the bonfire of regulations
As surely as night followed night followed darkest night of the soul
Cry cruellest murder, the tower can never be put right.

Over the main route into London from Heathrow,
Looms a burnt-out colossus:
A coked-up Tory wideboy in a cheap suit with a pocketful of loot.
We all learnt the meaning of metaphor that night
In Tinderbox plc.

Anna Chen – 12th July 2017

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

“Fucking brilliant. I couldn’t put it down.” – Wilko Johnson

History Rhymes

How many times have I watched the moon
Slice open the night across the hedgerows,
The church tower on white fire,
Lit up like seven centuries of truth?
Genuinely ancient, not a Victorian Gothic knock-off,
It whispers its history to me and
Gets mediaeval on my ass.
From thirteenth century, unlucky for some,
Nation states are born, others take their last breath,
Crusaders carving their craziness
Through popes and princes
And the Black Death.

Its arched windows witnessed
Every sun since it set its stones among
Monastery graves and monk-attended gardens,
Saw modern history crawl like a lungfish out of the sea.
Under its long, black eye the world turned
Dark to Light and back again,
Ricocheted in a flash of gunpowder,
The grim pause of the doodlebug’s purr,
The wailing siren, the tolling bells,
It stood firmly unswung through the sixties to Star Wars,
While empires rose, devoured and fell.

Across the road my neighbour’s house,
1667 picked out in relief on the wall.
So much history from the English revolution:
Cavaliers and Roundheads, Catholics and kings,
The Great Fire of London, the scientific Age
Of Enlightenment born in the wake of the Plague.

I thanked my lucky stars, blinded out by the moon,
That the end of history meant the tower,
My neighbour’s house and I,
Blessed and graced with the most tedious of times,
Escaped our visit from the Four Horsemen.
For are we not modern men and women
Not given to histrionics and the Big Event?

Something shifts underfoot, a deep and distant snapping
Of a hairline crack spider-webbing its way here.
Under the shadow of an eclipsing moon
Stones melt. The air kills.

Anna Chen – 18th December 2020

From Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong

Daddy Freud and To Adonis at his Toilet, St Ives, May 2008
Anna Chen at the Farrago Poetry Slam, RADA Café

More at the old POETRY page


Reaching for my Gnu and Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong edited and produced by Paul Anderson and published by Aaaargh! Press. Chi Chi’s Glorious Swansong cover designed by Caroline Grimshaw, Chi Chi illustration by Richard JL Pope

Anna Chen poetry Reaching for my Gnu Morning Star review
Scroll to Top