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BRIEF: Poet and performer Wo Chan comes to Western

The first look at their debut novel, ‘Togetherness’

Wo Chan flaunts a white dress amongst brightly colored flowers at the Protect Asian Lives Rally in March 2021 in East River Park NYC, N.Y. Chan uses drag and performing as a way to embody themselves as an artist and inspire their creative writing. // Photo by Justin J. Wee

Poet, drag queen and now author, Wo Chan, is visiting Western Washington University on Monday, Oct. 31, in the Multicultural Center to talk about their first book, “Togetherness.” 

Chan has been writing poetry for 12 years, but this is their first published book. They said it’s about their life, and they wrote it because they felt a need to help create peace with their younger self. 

“Putting these poems to paper helped me make sense with, empathize with, my younger self. I am unpacking all the ways my childhood was shaped by isolation, a loneliness that became exile and estrangement from family and state as I grew up,” Chan said.

Being a drag performer for 10 years has influenced Chan’s work because along with writing, performing is a source of creativity for them. Being a poet and an entertainer is complementary to Chan and equally important. 

“Drag has influenced my work in that it gives me another outlet – live, embodied and communal – to explore feeling as a sensation and perform for a community: a live mirror of my experience,” they said. 

Chan has found influence for their poetry both in and out of drag. When feeling stuck, they turn to books written by other authors, as well as films and movies. Using all different kinds of media to help create inspiration for their next project. 

“These days I'm inspired by other people’s books. I’m reading Denis Johnson’s ‘Incognito Lounge,’ Wanda Coleman's ‘Wicked Enchantment’ and ‘The Bernadette Meyers Reader,’” Chan said.

Dr. Jane Wong is a poetry professor at Western and a friend of Chan. Wong is hosting the event and is looking forward to celebrating Chan’s first book and creating an environment where students of Western can do the same. 

“One of my goals is to offer the students, and of course staff and faculty on campus, an opportunity to really see a fantastic poet and performer, and celebrate their first book,” Wong said. “I think there is something about the first book that is really special.” 


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