“Mind detritus becomes the stuff of great art in the hands of poet Adrienne Chung . . . a poet in complete command of her craft.” —NPR.org
“Organs of Little Importance is a riotous feat . . . Ferocious. Funny. Deeply intelligent. Adrienne Chung leaves a charred wake.” —Solmaz Sharif, author of Customs and Look
From National Poetry Series winner Adrienne Chung, a debut poetry collection about psychology, love, and memory
Taking its title from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Adrienne Chung’s debut collection asks why we cling so dearly to the vestigial parts of our psychologies—residues of first impressions, thought spirals to nowhere, memories that persist despite outliving their usefulness. The speaker in these poems tries to wear more color, indulges in Y2K nostalgia and falls in and out of love; a Jungian psychoanalyst has a field day with her dreams.
While Darwin was perplexed and ultimately dismissive of these seemingly useless body parts, Organs of Little Importance reframes and repositions the apparent uselessness of our compulsions, superstitions, errant thoughts, and other selves. In diptychs and ghazals, sonnets and lullabies, Chung collects and preserves pieces of psychological debris as one would care for precious heirlooms, revealing their surprising potential to become sites of meaning and connection.
Adrienne Chung’s poetry and prose have appeared in The Yale Review, Joyland, Recliner, and elsewhere, and have been supported by the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s MFA program.
Praise for Organs of Little Importance:
“Mind detritus becomes the stuff of great art in the hands of poet Adrienne Chung . . . a poet in complete command of her craft . . . both highly personal and surprisingly universal. What a treat to spend an afternoon immersed in her world, to better understand her loneliness, to laugh as she indicts 'one swipe and you're out' dating culture and feel the pangs of nostalgia for lost time as it rushes forward.” —NPR.org
“With a sardonic wit and the kind of 'perfect-SAT' intelligence that can lead to solipsism or worse, Chung, an American based in Berlin, dares the reader to draw the same glib conclusion as the ex-lover who tells the speaker to 'stop thinking so much.' Yet behind the façade of hip cogitation is a reticent yearning for authentic connection, as the poet confronts 'the private, the public, the chthonic lore' of failed love and the meaning of life. In poems ranging from a therapy notebook annotated with dream footnotes to a crown of sonnets that aches for a primal, lover’s garden just outside the dungeon of selfhood, Chung assembles a bracingly funny and desolate debut.” —Lit Hub
“Organs of Little Importance alternates between frame-breaking experiments and revivified traditions . . . [a] taut tug-of-war between becoming and trauma, fantasy and reminiscence.” —Poetry
“In playful, sometimes sly, and richly textured poems, Chung rewrites and reimagines the idea of the vestigial. What do our preoccupations have to teach us about the world and ourselves? Is there beauty in memories that no longer serve us, versions of self we’ve shed, old habits, seemingly useless body parts? This collection wrestles with these and other questions of memory, history, and embodiment.” —BookRiot
“Organs of Little Importance is a riotous feat. Mixing registers with an ease born of a pained listening, Chung names the isolations, the absurdities, the machinations of our mediated moments. Underpinning these poems of desire and observation, the difficult retrievals of a fraught mother daughter relationship. This is a book of presence and alienation that assays as often as it represents. Ferocious. Funny. Deeply intelligent. Adrienne Chung leaves a charred wake.” —Solmaz Sharif
“Adrienne Chung dies repeatedly and is reborn through the sonnet, but one of the many forms her plaintive brilliance demolishes and resurrects in Organs of Little Importance, a marvelous debut. From Jungian analysis and Joni Mitchell to Disney trauma and the blue of noon, Chung’s San Francisco breathes its many lineages’ despairs into her bleak enumerations and her wicked, satisfying rhymes. She always wins, but in that pyrrhic, poetic way that refuses to let such triumph ever be enough. So true. So good.” —Ariana Reines
“Adrienne Chung's poems are visionary, they thrill as they burrow into unusual crevices of feeling, offering up both sly little revelations and a superabundance of insight. I loved this twisted guidebook to living in a present populated largely by ghosts.” —Alexandra Kleeman
“It should be an impossible thing, but obviously I’m wrong, that a book of poems could be both immensely pleasurable and intensely introspective, could revel in the absurdities of daily life and plumb psychic depths, and perform these contraries with unstinting grace and intelligence—but Adrienne Chung has written just such a book. Our poet here is chimerical, hyphenate: psychoanalyst-philosopher-formalist-confessor-theologian-dreamer-neuroligist. Line by line these poems can flit by as quick as a swipe left or right on a phone; just as true, line by line these poems can build to that pregnant pause of utmost human irony, where the work of memory leads to the inevitability of oblivion, and our mother-issues are simply the more immediate manifestations of our age-old crisis: that I didn’t make myself, but myself am made. Kind of like a poem. Immediate pleasures will keep you turning page to page, but long after every page has been turned, a deep and difficult wisdom remains, haunting, honest, and brave.” —Dan Beachy-Quick
“'This was how/I loved her: devotion to a specter,' writes Adrienne Chung, in her extraordinary collection. Here the poet writes about her mother who is a figure—irregular, extravagant, damaged, and damaging—who haunts the pages of this book. The poems too are extravagant, full, funny, poignant, perceptive, and Chung’s tremendous talent for careful discernment is found everywhere throughout. Psychologically adroit, formally complex and with an ear tuned to the beauty of our language, Organs of Little Importance is, in fact, an important and memorable debut.” —Mark Wunderlich