Metatron Prize

for Rising Authors





Viola Chen

No Problematics





Viola Chen is a writer and a cultural thinker whose identity is informed by millennia of movement, loss, and gain. She was born in Tianjin and currently resides in Montreal.



Who are you and what’s your zodiac sign?
My name is Viola Chen. I am a Taurus with some intrusive fire placements.


What is No Problematics about?
No Problematics is about the interesting moral panic around contemporary ideas of good political character. How phenomena with extremely complex geopolitical histories are abstracted and reduced to flattened articulations of identity and relationality—and we have to question, to what ends and for the benefit of whom? It is also about a devastating breakup, and feeling compelled to abstract that beyond its specificities; in other words, to not pay its constellations due respect. But I was treated quite terribly in various instances throughout said relationship, and I pay intentional respect to my resentment and anger too.


Could you tell us a bit about the process of writing No Problematics?
I wrote it in my parents’ living room in the summer of 2018, during which I painted gallery walls for money and felt terribly sad almost every day. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was pregnant then and would remain pregnant for seven months. So I guess the process of writing this tiny book was also the process of fostering something that must eventually die.


What are some books you’ve read and enjoyed lately?
Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, How To Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. I’m also flipping through Books without Paste or Glue by Keith A. Smith, and learning some cool stuff. I reread books way more often than I read new books, so I always have to ask my friends for recommendations because otherwise I’d just read the same four books over and over.


Anything else?
I would like to express my immense gratitude toward Shelley Sella, Susan Robinson, and a person whose name I remember as Stephanie.








I know which gatherings you love.

The ones so obsessed about peen
in theory or 
so ethnic her tears reek of fruit.

You love the ideas you love. “I can’t help it.” That’s what he said!

Not the third person
in an office to say “bless you”
after a sneeze, as in out of
someone else’s habit.

But the first, the last, the biggest.

The horniest, the loneliest, the one who says sorry the least.

Only the most repressed, and the unimpressed.

The dead, the dead, the dead.

The trauma without the stress to relive the treason.

The hot,
the burning, 
the still alive, 
the season.

The woman who says the exact phrase, “I feel oppressed,” and then, “empowered.”

Everything that is the market in the market back home.





Hoop and loop feel so similar
they might as well be the same word.


In this part of town, Asian yellow
gold is gonna look so disgusting.
Everyone knows that tone
sure isn’t natural, doesn’t


pair well with the brown of
wood, the blue of the free ocean
that is, admittedly, also not 
splint of your skin.


I just don’t understand how you
can read all this shit on Tumblr
and then think it’s really
the one
way of the world.


If you can untangle the sections
of who you are, then you can sell
’em on Etsy as organic ingredients, or 
more profitably, a cross stitch.


Welcome to 2018, bitch
Welcome to the rest of your miserable money life.





I have been able to use my left hand to write since I was young, but it’s nowhere as skillful as my right hand, so I fall some crucial steps short of being ambidextrous and it only collects to something that fades with time. 


Which reminds me that, as we know, what’s left from the first time we tried again is different from what’s left this time. 


And the most logical thing I can imagine someone saying is: just make sure the left eats itself again next time!


At my most detached, I convince myself all directions are democratic in that they bring me closer to something and further from something else. 


You know that when I believe in something, I short-circuit to critiquing the critique. 


This is how I was culturally raised, I would explain to my children many years later, reminiscing about my 20’s. The slogan “fuck you, pay me!” really set off a warmer climate.


I too had wanted to make it as this generational brand of artist, but I exceeded even that level of moral rectitude. When you realize the fault in something, you just can’t go back.


I know that doesn’t explain how I got back to wanting to be with someone again. 


Even the experimental poetry repeats itself because we would rather not be alone.


I like the English language for some reasons. 


Lately (selfishly), one of these reasons is that I can say “I resent you so much” and not sound too serious about it. 


Or, I don’t know, maybe that’s just how I use the whole thing. 


Isn’t it ridiculous to think about how the body always acts in response? 


I just feel so...proactive

Today, my dad showed me a video he had recorded of himself at work, because he thought I’d find it “funny.” 


Ugh, it’s not funny, it’s just sad—this is exactly what I had said in the last days of my heartbreak. 


Or, I don’t know, I’m not there yet. 


But I will probably say these things when it’s time, I say to myself when I think my parents and I are running out of time. 


I can never repay them so I make them feel like I don’t want to try.


What’s over-compensating or under-compensating when the ways in which we are compensated makes no sense anyway?


What’s the point of measuring this thing or that thing if the world has never been the best it’s ever been anyway?


I bought pants that cost my dad three days of operating a machine—an event that has to repeat for me to understand the concept.


The pants are a quality of linen you can’t even imagine.


In them, I rub everything else I want to own.


By this time in the narrative, I don’t even want you anymore, so I grab the pillowcase and another pair of pants.


Historically, there have been many ways to want to own something.


Who’s a self-righteous spokesperson and what’s your favourite reason to feel confused in the morning?


These are two different questions that I have tried to formulate into the same.