The Next Big Thing
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I felt sick outrage when I learned about the enormous gyres of plastic floating in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. I didn’t know that no plastic ever created has disappeared. Plastic just gets smaller and smaller, until the tiniest fish are ingesting bits of plastic, all of over the world.
And then there’s the disease killing bats as they hibernate in their caves, and species after species of frogs are disappearing every day, and whole beehives are simply disappearing.
And then there was my everyday life with my love and our apartment in Brooklyn and all the grit and all the shine of the city. And how I traveled the subways and interacted with so many people, and how both the travel and the interactions took me along the surface and also took me deep down.
I started thinking about what disappears and how. And what appears and how. And what stays but shifts.
And in April, postcards disappeared into the post office’s blue maws, and then appeared in mailboxes across the country, scrawled with poems (thanks to the Kundiman community and our postcard poetry habit).
In all of that, there were always poems. And from the poems, somehow, a book.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a funny question. And I don’t really know how to answer it. But here’s one way I might try:
Water - The rain in In the Mood for Love, in the scene where Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung get drenched as they run to go get noodles.
Disappearing - The grasshoppers, the wheat fields, the threshers, and the fire in the locust scene in Days of Heaven.
Questioner - Yoko Ono
Lover - Jenny Shimizu
Girl Grown into Woman - Jennifer Beale
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
An early version of We Come Elemental was the thesis for my MFA. All told, I spent about two years working on the manuscript before I sent it into the world.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
- The waves of the Atlantic drawing up upon the shore again and again and again.
- Finned and winged and lunged beings.
- Icebergs calving in the north, glaciers melting at the equator.
- The obvious and subtle disappearing of tough and fragile entities that I share the planet with.
- The pulsing city I love.
- Our excellent public water systems across the U.S.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interests?
The book engages a queer::eco::poetics!
Some poems in this collection are interested in the queer body as ecology. Some think about how the city is a place where nature is integral.
I love punctuation!
I experiment with the double colon as a way of playing with disruption within the line. I am interested in experimenting with how it can be read from left to right, right to left, insists on tangible boundaries while simultaneously disrupting demarcations, asks for multiple readings, questions the equation of direct correlation but posits interconnection, is a built environment, and is queer.
There are haibun hijinks!
Two series of haibuns bookend the manuscript. I use it as a way of connecting to long poetic tradition, to which I can lay some kind of partial claim. The haibun, of all ancient Japanese poetic forms, speaks to me because of its hybridity, which lends itself easily to contemporary themes, and which is queer in an of itself. It refuses to stay put.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
We Come Elemental won the 2011 Kinereth Gensler Award and will be published by Alice James Books in May 2013.