What inspires you to write and how did you start your journey of writing poetry?
Reading other poems usually prompts me to write my own. It reminds me why I started writing poems in the first place: poetry allows us to both celebrate and challenge language as a tool to expand and subvert our ways of seeing.
Witnessing the unique kinds of attention that poems show inspires me to refine my perception and articulate that into poems.
#ForTheLoveOfPoetry - Can you elaborate on this and tell us how do you define poetry?
I would say, for the love of poetry, please give it your own meaning. I think that there is a lot of burden on poetry and poets to transcend money, to therapize, to save. It is not to say that a poem or poetry cannot do one or all of those things for certain people, but sometimes such approach to poetry can further alienate the genre from a larger public attention and remuneration. Poetry does have ethical value to me, as one artistic medium that in textual materialization leaves evidence of events—personal, social, environmental, etc.—and invites a lingering look at said events and related persons or effects.
Writing a poem necessitates a critical gaze, so poetry also has meaning to me as a member of society who wants to keep her eyes open. Poetry also has meaning to me because as a minority individual in the US—as an immigrant, as a woman, as an Asian—adding to our literary lineage and our own aesthetic modes is important to our collective cause, to centralize our voice.
So, I guess I would say, I define poetry as a manifestation of matters that are significant to you, and a form of manifestation that strives toward beauty.
Can you share one of your poems to lift us up in a day like today?
I don’t have many uplifting poems, but here is a new love poem, just published, and called “What Carries Us”:
What Carries Us
First, there was the horse.
Imagine creatures as majestic, standing. All their lives they stand, withholding.
Imagine being tamed. Learning to be still, to be speed. Imagine birds as large
as horses. We would be flying, grabbing a majestic creature by its collar.
In cylinders of metal, we are four-legged beast-lives of liminal spaces.
One time I was so tired of flying I wondered if I will spend all my life packing then unpacking.
A complaint of privilege. We are such spending creatures. And when I say we are beasts,
is that a metaphor? Metaphor, according to Papastergiadis, is also transportation, between absence and presence,
“articulating action.” Its “very process,” in times of extremity, is “akin to prophecy.”
I like the idea of transportation as articulation, that the end of metaphor is a kind
of arrival, like getting off the train at an unknown stop.
So when I say we are beasts, perhaps what I mean to do is remember that predators
have forward-facing eyes, and we do grab others by the collar, and we do fly
in metal, in preparation for the kill.
What I want to do is slow down time.
Imagine love as a horse.
Think about us—a distance apart only a flying thing could connect us--
standing and pacing, tamed and watching,
then finally with each other, laughing as if to collapse, unbridled as wild horses.
In this era of brevity in this era of metal in this era of abbreviation, yes, I’m trying to make you
think of me longer. Yes, this whole time,
the bird, the train, the whole thing about metaphor, I said to say this,
that this is what carries us, the slow consideration of what each other is, can be.
And first, there was the horse.
Source: Poetry (April 2020)
#HowWeCope - We'd really appreciate your take on this new campaign born out of necessity as we deal with quarantines, curfew, and social distancing. How do we cope? I think that we should understand and accept that despite all the time spent alone and inside, we should not pressure ourselves to “use this time” to be “productive.” We are not in an artists’ residency or in isolation by choice. A nap can be productive; watching the trees outside without any sense of vigilance can be productive.
We should do whatever we can to tend to our bodies and minds. We should also remind ourselves to be more gracious to others who may be slower to respond to emails, for instance. And be grateful to those working—delivery people, healthcare professionals, grocery store workers, etc.—while at greater health risk.
Encourage people in your community to stay home (assuming they’re not the aforementioned workers, caring for others, in abusive situations, etc.). We can make this isolation period shorter by doing that together.
The world will not be the same after the pandemic is over, and it will hopefully lead to positive changes in our healthcare, education, and other systems. Also, maybe give appreciation to Asian creators and people around you, as we are being targeted more for hate crimes and dehumanizing rhetoric. Order books by Asian writers, for instance.
#WhatMatters - What matters most in these times of uncertainty? How has your daily routine changed? Have you realigned your objectives to reflect your mood and the overall priority list of what matters? In this time, of course, caring for your mental and physical health is of paramount importance. Drink lots of fluids and eat as well as you can. Organize a group video chat with your friends. Watch mindless shows, lighthearted movies.
Don’t read every news article there is about COVID-19; you can stay informed without knowing everything. I do have a better, actually more stable, eating schedule now; I eat 3 meals a day and always make a pot of tea in the evening.
I’m allowing myself more breaks. What activities are you looking forward to resume once pandemic related restrictions are over and we return to our regular routines? I want to do more physical exercise; going to the gym, going hiking, taking walks. I want to go to the library to check our more books for my research for the dissertation. I’m also planning my wedding, which is paused right now, so hopefully I can resume that soon.