What projects and new ideas are exciting you personally, academically, professionally?
I just moved from New York to Missouri, where I’m a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis. I’m completing my first collection of poems, to be acquired by Random House, and starting what I dream will be a novel about Vietnamese refugees in Southern California. Some poems from the collection recently appeared in The New Yorker, as well as the anthology Inheriting the War (W.W. Norton) and RZA-directed film Love Beats Rhymes (Lionsgate).
Have you been keeping in touch with your Bezos Scholar Alumni, and if so — how?
I’m terrible at keeping in touch. Facebook, texting, email: all of it scares me because so much of my life as a young writer is cultivating and managing what might be considered “a public self.” So I’m lucky that Bobby Esnard (Bezos 2009) has remained kin and one of my closest friends.
Which influential books, albums, podcasts, or films would you personally recommend to the BSP community of curious minds?
On my desk right now: White Rage by Carol Anderson, Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, and Slow Lightning by Eduardo Corral. On my Spotify: Jessie Ware, Sabrina Claudio, and The Bodyguard Soundtrack. On my Netflix: Alias Grace.
Who or what are you finding inspiration in right now?
I’m writing a poetic sequence in which the speaker abandons Earth for life elsewhere after being raped in college, which is my experience. Braided into this sequence is the story of the speaker’s family leaving Vietnam for the United States. Ostensibly another universe, the speaker’s family learns, as they inevitably find on their endeavor to the great “out there,” that this country isn’t exceptional or a “fresh start” as it claims; in fact, the myth of American democracy is fashioned from oppressive regimes requiring the perpetual management of bodies, capital, and resources. So what now? How does one cultivate joy, community, love, or a sense of belonging in a world demanding our otherness? How does one negotiate and thereby exact agency over history, memory, and trauma? If nothing else, it seems, we glean knowledge from trying. But then I take to task the question: is knowledge enough?
Anything else you want to share with the BSP community?
Wishing everyone a wonderful and warm holiday! Sending you all my love for the new year.