As the submission deadlines for our second issue and our awards slowly wind down, we at TRACK//FOUR would like to take the time to spotlight a Chinese-American poet whose debut collection is assuredly hurtling towards us: Nancy Huang!
(Please note: The written record of this interview has been edited for clarity.)
LC: So, Nancy, what in particular drew you to Write Bloody Publishing as a home for your manuscript?
NH: The quality of their other published writers. I've met Sarah Kay (one of their writers) and heard her speak and perform her poems, she's phenomenal. And before I applied I'd just finished floating brilliant gone by Franny Choi. I don't think I've ever read a collection like Floating, Brilliant, Gone. I think their press is so exemplary in part because of how their past publications speak for them.
Would you consider her a poetic influence?
I don't know if influence is the right word, but I look up to her so much; I think she's incredible.
As someone who's also read FBG, that feeling is totally understandable. In that case, what do you consider to be the aesthetic framework for your upcoming collection? Any ideas or themes you found yourself returning to, again and again?
My friends always ask me this question, and i love it. I think writing about family is always something to fall back on. There was a whole period of my life where I wrote poems about my childhood from the perspective of my dining room table, so "home" is definitely a big factor. Sexuality is also something I'm grappling with, and it manifests metaphorically in all the poems I'm churning out right now. Culture, too. I don't believe that culture means the same thing to everybody else. I think you can really point to any experience you have and call it a kind of culture, and while that's something I'm trying to write about and understand, it's also a mindset I'm trying to get out of for the sake of avoiding limitation.
I can understand that. For me, a big part of writing poetry is going into a piece with convictions and coming out with those convictions distorted and warped. Transfiguration characterizes all art to a degree, and the non-barrier of cultural modification certainly falls in line with that.
Exactly! And barring appropriation, I love reading about things that fall under the more general and broad label of "culture".
Freedom of choice aside, are there any convictions that you went into writing with?
I thought I always had to sensationalize. I thought I had to keep adding things for entertainment value. I genuinely believed honesty was boring. Writing this chapbook is such an experience, though! Lucy Wagner said something about how lying in fiction is more acceptable, but when you lie in poetry you're being a coward. I started out as a fiction writer and I think I agree with her. I'm trying to be more mindful of what I put on the page now.
When did you realize that your beliefs about the importance of truth had changed?
Right about when i started writing poetry. I mean, I believe that fabrication can certainly exist in poetry, and it can be good, too, but that goes into the whole who-am-i-writing-this-for argument that you have with yourself and really depends on the writer in question.
You mentioned a fear of being boring - or I suppose the wrong kind of interesting, depending on how you look at it. Is there anything in this manuscript that you feel you had to let go of alongside that?
I had to let go of a lot of fear and denial regarding some of my personal experiences. Writing anything (stories and poems included) has always made me braver, but this is the project I am most terrified about; that isn't bad in and of itself. A little fear can be a healthy thing! But having said that, there were some really great poems I had to sacrifice for the sake of unity.
If you could put together a playlist of songs that you think would go with your chapbook, what songs would you include?
"Ava" by FAMY, for starters, because I listened to it so often while I was writing. Dawn Golden's "Discoloration". "Two Weeks" by FKA Twigs. And maybe "Children's Work," by Dessa.
How would you classify your chapbook by musical genre?
NANCY HUANG grew up in America and China. She is a winner of the 2016 Write Bloody Poetry Chapbook contest, a winner of a James F. Parker Award in Poetry, and was a finalist for MSU’s Young Playwrights Festival, where her play was officially labeled a fire hazard. She won the Michigan Grand Prize in Letters About Literature and was shortlisted as #6 nationally by the Library of Congress. She is a two-time 2013 recipient of Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and a 2015 YoungArts Finalist. This past summer she was the youngest attendant of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop summer graduate session. She lives in Austin. Her first chapbook will be out in fall 2017 (Write Bloody Press).
LYRIK COURTNEY, blog editor of TRACK//FOUR, is a high school senior who sits at the cultural intersection of African-American and nonbinary gender (ca. 1999). Their work has been featured in/is forthcoming in Blueshift Journal, Liminality Magazine, and Polyphony H.S, as well as other places. The nature of their existence is oftentimes disorienting, but you can always find them tweeting at @lyrik_c.