1. What first got you into writing poetry? Was it a certain event or experience in life you had?
As long as I can remember, I was drawn to and wrote poetry. We weren’t a book-rich household but I did have access to and encouragement to seek out the public library. As a girl, world myth, fairy tales, and stories of historical hauntings and ghosts fascinated me.
At one point, in elementary school, I thought I should like to be an investigator of the paranormal. I also seriously wanted to be an archeologist.
These seem related to each other—as well as to poetry.
But as a form of writing, I was always pulled to the economy and turns of poetry, the intensity and surprise of verse. I felt impelled to write in general and when I did, it would often end up as verse. I don’t know why I did this. It always felt like my natural form.
I think having—and then losing, abruptly, an entire language had a significant impact on me. Often I think I write poems toward that lost language (Vietnamese)—to a lost experience and lost cadences of sound. That I might be trying, through poetry, to create and excavate that ghostly imprint.
My stepfather worked for the State Department and would bring home cast-off scrap paper from his office. One time, it was a giant stack of vanilla colored card stock and I would spend many hours collaborating with a best friend on “books.” We labored and laughed over these for hours, filled our self-made books with funny stories and comics and drawings.
I think this spoke to a nascent impulse to put words to paper—to make formal text—and create an enduring object of words.