Hoa Nguyen | Issue 4
Micro Interview with Hoa Nguyen
Kathryn Mockler: What is your first memory of writing creatively?
Hoa Nguyen: This was of illustrated stories I wrote in elementary school. One featured a frog named Hiccup who had series of adventures with friends. Another portrayed a disadvantaged puppy (the “runt” of the litter”) who matures into the world with a journey marked by gains and losses. I was also fond of making illustrated comic books full of angst, humor, and absurdity. I think I always wanted to be a writer, secretly. And a poet. In Vietnam, there is a custom where you present several objects to your child on their one-year birthday: a pile of money, a pen, a stethoscope, a pair of scissors, other vocational symbolic objects, etc. The item(s) the child grabs foretells their future occupation. I grabbed the pen.
KM: Tell me about your latest collection, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure and the story that inspired this book.
HN: The book is inspired by many things; primarily, a desire to center Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporic experiences. I wrote to contest degrading images and roles and other monoliths of identity assigned to women of Asian descent in North America. I was inspired to write a complexity that could bear witness to historical violence, tremendous events of loss and displacement, alongside other complexity of emotions including those of triumph and joy. I was also inspired to evoke my mother’s life as a celebrated stunt motorcycle rider who leaves Vietnam with her mixed-race child (me) to never return “home”. Her story has all the features of hero: a person of an extra-human qualities living through exceptional times.
KM: You move between lyric narrative, archive, story, and song in A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure. Can you talk about how you approached form or how these various forms came together?
HN: As a poet I am interested in polyphony and sonic environments. I was thinking through what it means “to document” and what it means to record the irretrievable or relate from memory, to narrate from tellings and retellings. It meant considering what gets told and what doesn’t get told. Form became a way for working dissonance and managing tone, a way to manage fragments caught in song. There’s missing information and needs for interactivity, an openness in the handling of historical event, memory, recovered personal archive into a kind of cartography of ghosts.
Hoa Nguyen is the author of five books including Red Juice: Poems 1998 – 2008, the Griffin Prize nominated Violet Energy Ingots. Her latest collection of poems, A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, is a poetic meditation on historical, personal, and cultural pressures pre- and post- “Fall-of-Saigon” with verse biography featuring her mother, Diệp Anh Nguyễn, a stunt motorcyclist in an all-women Vietnamese circus troupe. Hoa teaches for Miami University’s low residency MFA program, as Co-chair of Writing in the Milton Avery School for Fine Arts at Bard College, and as associated faculty for University of Guelph. For more than twenty years Hoa has led reading-focused poetics workshops that take place in cyberspace and Toronto.
Wave Books, 2021
A poetic meditation on historical, personal, and cultural pressures pre- and post-“Fall-of-Saigon” with verse biography on the poet's mother, Diệp Anh Nguyễn, a stunt motorcyclist in an all-women Vietnamese circus troupe. Multilayered, plaintive, and provocative, the poems in A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure are alive with archive and inhabit histories. By turns lyrical and unsettling, Hoa Nguyen's poetry sings of language and loss; dialogues with time, myth and place; and communes with past and future ghosts. (Wave)
Hoa Nguyen’s Canadian Launch
with LISA FISHMAN
KFB SELECTS SPRING 2021
Visit knife | fork | book on April 21, 2021 for the Zoom link.
Purchase the book here.
Issue #4 of Send My Love to Anyone
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