Sweet Poetry: Q&A with Yim Tan Wong

Today’s Q&A is with Yim Tan Wong, a contributor of poetry to the inaugural issue of Sugared Water.

Yim Tan Wong holds an MFA from Hollins University and is a Kundiman Emerging Asian American Poets Fellow. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from over thirty print and online journals, including The Cortland Review, Little Patuxent Review, Tahoma Literary Review, A capella Zoo, Phoebe, RATTLE, and Crab Orchard Review.

a little taste of “Angelfishfrom SW#001:

Do they believe the world
undulates beyond artificial
vegetation, fins, and algae?
Do they trust bite-sized food
drifts from a Greater Above?

Ahoy from Upper Here,
I say, and tap the glass.
Fogging their view,
I introduce myself, as
God, water, weather.

SW: What are you currently reading?
YTW: I recently finished reading Oliver de la Paz’s Requiem for the Orchard (University of Akron Press, 2010), a brilliant and very personal poetry collection, written in a flurry after he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and just as he was on the verge of fatherhood.  These are his most personal poems yet, and I admire how much of himself he gifts to the page as he reflects upon boyhood, growing up in a small Oregon town, emerging from surgery, and becoming a parent.  Next on the docket: 1) Both Flesh and Not (Hamish Hamilton, 2012), a collection of David Foster Wallace essays; 2) Richard Hoffman’s poetry collection, Emblem (Barrow Street Press, 2011); and Letters Between Friends (Abrams, 1994), letters between painter René Magritte and his confidant, friend, and attorney, Harry Torczyner.

SW: What are you working on now?
YTW: I patiently await a publisher to pick up my first full-length poetry manuscript, which has been a finalist for Four Way Books’ Levis Prize and the Alice James Books/Kundiman Poetry Prize.  Meanwhile, I have three other manuscripts in progress, and the bulk of my energy goes into what I refer to as “Book 2,” which interacts with the paintings and language philosophy of René Magritte, the work of logician Ludwig Wittgenstein, the pessimist philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, and the troublesome views of the irate but at times quite lucid and brilliant Friedrich Nietzsche.  Interest in their world views stems from my attempt to comprehend the level of violence that humans inflict upon one other, timeless cycles of rage and oppression, and although I know there are so many factors (psychological, social, economic, political, and the list goes on) which can lead to violent acts, I have this great hope that if language could be perfected to translate sufficiently one’s sense of injustice, disappointments, fears and needs, that physical and weapon-driven aggression would diminish.  I know this simplifies a complex matter, but we must start somewhere.

SW: What writers/works have inspired you?
YTW: My favorite writers are actually fiction writers: namely, Salman Rushdie, for his literary and historical erudition, his love of language and fanciful play with words, his quick wit, and his ability to convey his love of storytelling and respect for the permanent connections made between parent and child when stories are shared, as conveyed in his book Haroun and the Sea of Stories.  Also, I adore F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby moves at such an elegant clip, and not a word is out of place or used frivolously.  Must add to the list: Tao Lin–for his brazenness.

As for poets who rank high in a long list of admired poets: Anne Sexton; Walt Whitman; Christian Hawkey; Ai; Matthew Zapruder, Thomas Lux; Natasha Trethewey; Wendy Xu; Tomaž Šalamun; Jee Leong Koh; Tamiko Beyer; Tony Hoagland; Franz Wright…I could go on for quite a while!

SW: Where do you seek inspiration?
YTW: From observation, listening, and discovering connections between seemingly disparate things. Music, lots music, from The Velvet Underground to techno to Philip Glass.  Paintings, photographs, and installation art. Contemporary artists on radar: Tara Donovan; Kara Walker; Tessa Farmer; Cindy Sherman; and Shepard Fairey.  Lots of films, too, since I am a highly visual person.  The writers/directors who engage my imagination most are David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, and Jean-Luc Godard; and the films I can watch over and over are Diva, La Jetée, Metropolis, and Eraserhead.

SW: Would you talk a bit about your writing process?
YTW: Just sit down and do it, stand up, pace, or start thinking and see where those thoughts and language intersect.  Oftentimes, if I cannot generate a new poem, I either read (prose, poetry, newspapers, etc.) or tinker with a piece that is undergoing revision, and that usually leads to new ideas and eventually a new poem.  To make writing happen, I take action, but seldom wait for inspiration.  You have to chase it.  Sometimes, as I am reading a book or listening to an album, I will start composing new work, or get an idea about how to edit a piece that is under revision.  The trigger does not necessarily even have to have anything to do with the idea generated, which is rather fascinating.

SW: With what are you obsessed?
YTW: Running and spinning.  Regular exercise is such a wonderful way to develop discipline, and this will hopefully affect one’s writing regimen as well as fortify the spirit against what every writer must deal with and accept: obstacles, rejection, failure, and the requisite development of the ability to work repeatedly, single-mindedly, and vigorously toward a goal.

Yim Tan Wong | SW#001

Sweet Poetry: Q&A with Victor David Sandiego

Today’s Q&A is with Victor David Sandiego, a contributor of genre to the inaugural issue of Sugared Water.

Victor David Sandiego lives in the high desert of central México where he writes, studies, and plays drums with jazz combos and in musical / poetry collaborations. His work appears in various journals (Cerise Press, Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Off The Coast, Generations Literary Journal, Poetry Salzburg Review, Sugared Water [ of course], others) and has been featured on public radio. He is the founder and current editor of Subprimal Poetry Art. His website is victordavid.com.

a little taste of “Advice from My Fatherfrom SW#001:

The fork approaches his mouth, a wet nest
of birds
tumbles to the plate.

I start to wonder if a reunion was a good idea.
My father seems an odd stranger.

SW: What are you currently reading?
VDS: Lately, I’ve been returning to books that I’ve read before. I just finished reading Dear Judas by Robison Jeffers for the 6th or 7th time. It continues to fascinate me with its language and rhythm. I read various works of Jorge Borges in both English and Spanish. And I’ve started The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz for the second time.

SW: What are you working on now?
VDS: I recently completed a manuscript entitled The Desert Gardens. That is to say, I reached the end. I still need to revise it, but I’ll let it sit for a while first. Meanwhile, I’ve started my next project, a series of pieces about Guanajuato, the city in central Mexico where I live. I also continue to work on getting various pieces or manuscripts published.

SW: What writers/works have inspired you?
VDS: Since I was a child, I’ve been an avid reader. There’s been so many works and authors that have reached into me that it would be impossible for me to list them all. The mysticism of Carlos Castaneda attracted me at a young age and has stayed with me since. I’ve been influenced by Jorge Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, María Baranda, Isaac Asimov, Dante, Kahil Gibran, Homer, Jose Saramago, and (for a while at least) Charles Bukowski.

SW: Where do you seek inspiration?
VDS: I don’t exactly go looking for inspiration. I try to live my life so that it finds me. Sometimes it finds me when I wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Sometimes it finds me when I walk through the city. I’m an observant person and things get mashed away in my mind for a later re-telling. But because I have visual and sensory dyslexia, things don’t always come out in the same way they went in.

SW: Would you talk a bit about your writing process?
VDS: I frequently begin with an odd bit of thought, a line or an image. I don’t usually know where they come from but I have learned to recognize the door that is being opened for me, but not necessarily by me. So I just go through the door and follow what I find there to wherever it leads.

At every juncture I look for ways to see beyond the obvious to what lies beneath. For instance, a person who is afraid of dogs doesn’t just see a dog and feel afraid. That’s too easy. Instead they may see a whole painful future reflected from a painful past spilling from his saliva. Everything can be peeled back, including the things I have already peeled back. My desire is to keep probing as deeply as I can.

Much of my work in the last several years has involved writing an entire manuscript. That is, I set out to connect a series of words into a series of pieces that are a conscious part of a whole volume. And in one case at least, the volumes themselves are part of a larger whole. The five volumes of my poetry pentology explore and commemorate a journey that begins with physical depravation in Africa and continues in an expanding sphere that passes through modern life in the Americas into a reawakened mysticism.

SW: With what are you obsessed?
VDS: If one reads a lot of my more recent work, they might conclude that I’m obsessed with death. But I’m not really. I’m more concerned with leaving something behind that will help make the world a better place. Ideas are communicable and I would like to help spread a few. I’m obsessed with the idea of the human race shaping their ways of thinking and being, ways that don’t automatically assume conflict and fear. I’d like more people to see themselves as citizens of the world and stay away from any form of nationalism.

Bibliography:

I have two books available right now and others in the works.

 The Strange & Beautiful Life of Daniel Raskovich
An imagined biography of an odd everyman character, darkly funny and strangely poignant. A frank take on contemporary society. That’s what the publisher wrote anyway. I think Daniel is fun.

 39 Boys on the Ground
Volume 1 of the pentology mentioned above. 39 interwoven snapshots depicting the darkly humorous, insightful, surreal and brutally honest worlds of boys as they climb from the hollows of their youth into the world of men.

The easiest way to get more info on these is on my books page: http://victordavid.com/books

Victor David Sandiego | web | SW#001

Sweet Poetry: Q&A with Kate LaDew

Today’s Q&A is with Kate LaDew, a contributor of poetry to the inaugural issue of Sugared Water.

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in Studio Arts,  She lives in Graham, North Carolina with her cat, Charlie Chaplin.  Kate is currently working on her first collection of poems, I Am Not Beautiful.

a little taste of “I’m Afraid of the Way Your Voice Changes When You Talk About Himfrom SW#001:

the little tremble of warmth and hurt and exhaustion
I never see your eyes, your hands work against them
kneading the lashes as if you could make your face a smooth plane
with nothing to give away what’s inside

SW: What are you currently reading?
KL: I am reading John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, a novel I always meant to read in high school.  It’s really devastated me.  I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a book across a room before.

SW: What are you working on now?
KL: I am putting together a book of poetry and a short story collection (possibly called Lying About Mustaches).

SW: What writers/works have inspired you?
KL: I have been reading a lot of George Saunders stories.  I love how disarmingly funny and sad they can be.  It’s a combination that doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does brilliantly.  “A Lack of Order in the Floating Object Room” is one of my favorites.  He has definitely influenced my style of writing.

SW: Where do you seek inspiration?
KL: My ideas just come from everyday life.  It might just be a phrase I overhear that develops into a two or three pages.  I feel like you should be able to tell a complete story that involves the reader and ends before their attention has, so I’m not sure I could ever write a complete novel without becoming bored with it myself.

SW: With what are you obsessed?
KL: I am obsessed with silent films at the moment.  It seems like so much more was required of actors as they only had their facial expressions to tell the story.  I don’t think you could ever make films like that now because the audience would feel like they were somehow missing out on something if there was no dialogue.  I think of the end of Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights,  That simple intertitle ‘You can see now?’ ‘Yes, I can see now,’ and the Tramp’s shy little smile is probably the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen (and only seen).

Kate LaDew | SW#001

Sweet Poetry: Q&A with P. Andrew Miller

Today’s Q&A is with P. Andrew Miller, a contributor of prose poetry to the inaugural issue of Sugared Water.

P. Andrew Miller is a writer of lots of different things like short stories, poems, lyric essays, reference articles, etc. He is coordinator of creative writing at Northern Kentucky University.

a little taste of “A Poem About My Father” from SW#001:

 Perhaps I should write a poem about my father and his rabbits that he raised in a complex of cages and coops (that used to have chickens too but most of those were gone before I had to take my turn at taking care of them) up on the hill behind our house and how he raised them for food, almost two hundred of them and how he would go up each Thursday because that was garbage day and pick out the ones that were ready to be butchered, and bring them down to the house and hang them up by their back legs in little leather loops hanging from the ceiling and they would squeal as the big butcher knife sliced into their throats and the blood spurted on to the paper spread underneath and how he would strip the skin off, take out the guts, then cut the paws off and throw the rabbits on ice to take to the man who bought them from him and sold them at his store in the city but I hated the rabbits and having to haul gallon buckets of water and food up the hill, especially in the rain or the snow and I couldn’t kill them though sometimes I watched and I liked going with him to the man’s house who bought them because he and his wife were nice to me.

SW: What are you currently reading?
PAM: A backlog of comic books I didn’t have time to read during the last school year.

SW: What are you working on now?
PAM: A collaborative novel, a short story, and editing a poetry chapbook.

SW: What writers/works have inspired you?
PAM: Neil Gaiman, Flannery O’Conner, and Terry Pratchett.

SW: Where do you seek inspiration?
PAM: Mindless activities like grass cutting. 🙂

SW: Would you talk a bit about your writing process?
PAM: A lot of my wiring process happens away from the keyboard. I have an idea, maybe even a plot. I usually wind up with a problem that needs to be solved. I mull that over, sometimes for days, while I do other things. Usually, I get a “eureka” moment then on where to take the story and can sit down and write it from there.

SW: With what are you obsessed?
PAM: Well, it was original comic art of eBay, but I managed to break that addiction for the present. 🙂

Bibliography:

Bodies in Water, a prose chapbook (Porkbelly Press)
In Love, In Water, and Other Stories (forthcoming from Post Mortem Press in 2014)

P. Andrew Miller | web | SW#001