Tuesday, July 09, 2024

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Chuqiao Yang

Chuqiao Yang’s poems have appeared in magazine suchs as The Walrus, Arc Poetry Magazine, Prism, Grain, CV2, Room, and on CBC Radio. She was a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers and her chapbook, Reunions in the Year of the Sheep, won the bpNichol Chapbook Award. The Last to the Party is her first full-length collection.

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

Hi rob! Thank you for inviting me to do this. It means a lot.

My first chapbook, Reunions in the Year of the Sheep won the bpNichol Chapbook Award which was a huge honour. I have that chapbook, and baseline press (Karen Schindler, I am talking about you!), and the RBC Writers' Trust to thank as all of that led to my first collection, The Last to the Party with Goose Lane Editions' icehouse poetry imprint.

I am answering your questions immediately after the book's release so I really don't know how things will have changed yet. So far, my friends and family and community have been really supportive, which is wonderful especially since this is my first full-length book. Things feel a bit different because I wrote a lot of the book in my 'youth' and early 20s and left the poems alone while I was in school. Revisiting them and reworking them now in my 30s and adding new poems to the collection felt a bit like I was greeting and bidding farewell to who I used to be when I wrote them the first time. Editing and peer review was bot fun and odd because it felt like I was low-key saying 'get over yourself' to myself which was pretty, pretty humbling.

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

I'm not really sure. For me personally, at least in the beginning, it felt like there was more opportunity to say something through poetry than fiction, non-fiction or another genre. But I like to dabble.  

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?

As you hinted at in your review of my book (thank you again), it takes a very long time and it happens in spurts. I could be more disciplined. I notice that when I am reading a lot, I am more perceptive and open to writing.

4 - Where does a poem or work of prose 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?

I piece things together over time. I learned a lot of new things about myself through the editing process working with Goose Lane and my editor. I'm excited to see how I've grown or changed or stayed the same, and I am excited to apply those lessons to other projects in the future.  

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I like to go to readings from time to time but I don't like reading. I know that it's a chance for me, reading it aloud, or someone hearing it, to experience or encounter new dimensions of the poem but I always worry I'm being gimmicky, pretentious, or boring. I will say though that it's very useful to hear your writing out loud when you are working on it, or to have someone read your work to you as you edit it.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

People write for all sorts of reasons and those reasons can change with time. I really think it depends on the writer, their literary and/or personal goals, and what they hope to accomplish in their work.

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


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

Focus on the work.

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

I let it pass without judgment. I used to beat myself up about it. But I don't think a period of time away from writing means anything negative; life is happening all the time and it can feel more damaging if your mindset is that you have to keep your momentum up in order to be prolific, purposeful or inspired. I really think it's more than okay to have long periods of time where you are just absorbing the world, or living in it, or even struggling to make sense of it or yourself. You aren't wasting time. You are just chilling out and taking it easy on yourself.

Of course it can be hard, but in those times, I try to do mindfulness techniques. I read and spend time with family and friends. I watch comedy, I see movies, or I just do nothing. I bide my time to take care of myself. It's all a work in progress even if you're not working!

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

Li-Young Lee, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Simple Recipes by Madeline Thien, T.S. Eliot. 

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

More sports.

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

I've been reading some teachings by the Stoics lately. I find reading their reflections validating and reassuring.

Also, last year I read this book called Luster by Raven Leilani in literally one sitting, it was amazing. I just finished Based on a True Story by Delphine du Vigan (wow!). Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (also wow). Homie by Danez Smith (more wow). The Good Women of Safe Harbour by Bobbi French (WOW and so, so devastating).

20 - What are you currently working on?

Nothing has taken form yet, but maybe some stories.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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