A few years ago I lived in Beijing. There, my use of English mainly consisted of watching episodes of Lost and Battlestar Gallactica and arguing with my then boyfriend, now husband. As one might imagine, strange things started happening to my English. My relationship to the language splintered. English became more "other" and observable, almost tactile, and, at the same time, it felt more and more intimate, like the breath of thought. This was a strange dichodomy, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes lonely, always interesting.
It was from inside this new relationship to my native tongue that I wrote my first book of poems, Awayward. The poems stem out of seeing the world and self through new and shifting lenses, through an English that is both my dear old friend and an odd stranger. The poems enact how the world can open and shift when viewed through a new context, and the poems observe the consequences of change.
Sadly, I can't move to another country every time I want to write a new book; yet, I find that the feeling, of language being newly observable—a landscape—but also so close—one's own vascular system—is what happens to me when I read the poems I love. This occurs with such a wide range of poems styliscially and aesthetically, that when I think about influence, I am reminded of a yearbook picture of everyone in the eleventh grade. I feel that I both speak and think better after reading these poems and am always grateful for them.
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I TALK TO ANOTHER MORE THAN MYSELF
The same words: anathema,
our language as fallen.
Stencils of trees to decorate trees.
At the museum, you are impressed
by ancient bronze. Metal ribs
of another. I wield a dull knife
to my way of seeing:
the cloud-thoughts, not muscles,
feel the threat. The word-hinges—
like tools of unknown origin—
exposed under the more modern way
to light old artifacts. My use of
you could distill us, make room
for another experiment in materials.
Poem from Awayward (BOA Editions, 2009). Reprinted with the permission of the author. All Rights Reserved.
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