Thursday, November 28, 2013

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese.  She is the author of two books of poetry, My Funeral Gondola (Manoa Books/El Léon, 2013) and Water the Moon (Marick, 2010), as well as several volumes of translation of contemporary Chinese and American poets (Zephyr Press and Vif Éditions).  She lives in France, and works as an editor and zheng harpist.

1.  How did your first book change your life?  How does your most recent work compare to your previous?  How does it feel different?

My work is modest.  To some extent, my debut book, Water the Moon, changes the course of my writing.  The second, My Funeral Gondola, is of a different aesthetic — and experience.  My editor and co-publisher from Manoa Books, Frank Stewart has been very much present when it comes to assuming its making.

2.  How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
By accident.

I was working on non-fiction pieces for some years before poems happened. 

3.  How long does it take to start any particular writing project?  Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process?  Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

It is a slow process.  Drafts are private.

4.  Where does a poem usually begin for you?  Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

A poem begins with a failure of sorts.  It speaks to me when I can feel its pulse.  I don’t write with a “book” in mind.  It’d empower presentation and result more than the intimacy of writing.

5.  Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?  Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I find readings meaningful when they resist becoming an outward performance / role-playing.  Or something that one does just to sell books or be seen in the literary community.  In short, I prefer readings that serve as a form of dialogue, with a precise social context to relate to.

7.  What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture?  Does s/he even have one?  What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I couldn’t help but think of Bialoszewski:

    First I went down to the store
    by means of the stairs,
    just imagine it,
    by means of the stairs.

    Then people known to people unknown
    passed me by and I passed them by.
    that you did not see
    how people walk,

8.  Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

More essential than difficult.

9.  What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

Not sure if this is the “best,” or an “advice” — Begin from where you are.

10.  How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to translation)?  What do you see as the appeal?

Difficult.  Appeal: to be immersed in another landscape.

11.  What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one?  How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I don’t write every day, but I work on the harp every day.  I also write letters. 

12.  When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?


13.  What fragrance reminds you of home?

My grandmother’s herbal soup.

14.  David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Yes, most, if not all, of what you’ve mentioned: botany, music, and visual art. 

15.  What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Homer, Montaigne, Proust, Tolkien, Blixen, Rilke

16.  What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?


17.  If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be?

18.  What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I don’t know.

19.  What was the last great book you read?  What was the last great film?

I’m unsure about “great”…  but am happy to recommend Marcel Carné’s Les Enfants du paradis (1945), and Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008).  Recently, I re-read a few of Jane Austen’s novels.

20.  What are you currently working on?
Phytotherapy and organic desserts.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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