Victoria Chang On The Self And Its Many Deaths

By Peter Mishler
FROM: Lit Hub

9781556595745_FC_700px-wide-resize-1For the next installation in our interview series with contemporary poets, Peter Mishler corresponded with Victoria Chang. Victoria Chang’s books include OBIT (April 2020), Barbie Chang, The Boss, Salvinia Molesta, and Circle. Her children’s picture book, Is Mommy?, was illustrated by Marla Frazee and published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster. It was named a New York Times Notable Book. Her middle grade novel Love, Love will be published by Sterling Publishing in 2020. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Pushcart Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a Lannan Residency Fellowship. She lives in Los Angeles and is the program chair of Antioch’s Low-Residency MFA Program.

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Peter Mishler: What is the strangest thing you know to be true about the art of poetry?

Victoria Chang: I find all of poetry strange, truthfully, in the best of ways. It’s so mysterious and I love the process of writing because it is a process of discovery. While working on OBIT, all the usual strange things occurred from the initial trigger to write in an obituary form to the actual writing process itself. The whole process is very magical and it’s so addictive that I find myself seeking that surprise like a kind of drug every time I sit down to write. There’s nothing in the world that makes me quite as happy as when I’m writing. Obviously, it’s hard, but I enjoy that difficulty. I also find it strange that after all these decades of writing, it still feels fresh every time. I find it so odd how boundless the human imagination is. I’m writing you from Marfa, Texas and I am so inspired and excited to write just being in a different physical location.

PM: Would you like to talk a little bit about what you are working on in Marfa?

VC: At the moment, I am procrastinating. I am working on a collection of these sort of hybrid, uncategorizable memoir essays about poetry. It’s really hard to explain because I’m forming it as I go or I should say, it is forming itself as I go. I haven’t written a poem in years, maybe three? I’ve been wanting to write poems but have been struggling. I finally decided that I don’t need to write poems for anyone but just for myself right now. A friend forced me to write poems back and forth as a way of correspondence when he was at MacDowell this week, so surprisingly I have written a slew of earnest bad poems. They are about nothing. They do nothing. They just are.

PM: Would you be willing to talk about a difficult experience in returning to writing after completing a collection or series of poems?

VC: I think all writing is difficult. I get bored very easily and am always looking for the next stimulation. It’s probably my best and worst quality. So I don’t think I struggle to find material to write about. I think life finds us in that way. What I find difficult every time is not boring myself. I read a lot so if I find myself writing in ways that have been written before, I get frustrated. I do think for me, reading is the best way to stimulate new ideas. Walking too. I used to run a lot until I herniated a bunch of discs and so I do a lot of walking now and I always think of new things when I’m walking. Living with chronic pain, as well as the illnesses of others (my parents) for so long, and generally being too busy, has made me really appreciate any time I do get to write so I bring a lot of excitement to the table when I sit down. Urgency is important. Read Rest of Interview Here

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