Paul Cunningham: What was the driving force behind You & Me Forever?
Valerie Hsiung: Needing to survive.
PC: In 2016, Action Books published your third full-length collection, efg. The late great poet CD Wright compared your work to Zukofsky, lauding your poems’ tone, mood, and vocal scale. What was one of your favorite poems or passages from efg and why?
VH: “Affliction.” It’s a poem of condiments, terracotta warriors on exhibit in the midwest, pacing between secret language and shared language, tectonic violence, abjection, and showmanship.
PC: What was the origin story of this poetry collection?
VH: Hmm… I don’t know. None of my collections begin with a single origin story. And yet they are all ultimately the same origin story. That is, searching for a new origin story.
PC: Can you tell us about any new projects on the horizon?
VH: I have two new forthcoming books, outside voices please (CSU) and hummingbird et partygirl (Essay Press). I have two manuscripts that I’ve spent the last few years working on and are now completed. Time is being spent between editing these collections and writing new work, because I have to.
PC: Who are you currently reading?
VH: The past few months: Byung-Chul Han. Ibn Arabi. Mercè Rodoreda. Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. Heriberto Yépez. Anais Duplain. Etel Adnan. Erica Hunt. Nathanaël. Dolores Dorantes. Chantal Akerman. Tess Brown Lavoie. Heraclitus. Adam Smith. Trinh T. Ming-ha. Sarah Ahmed. Jibade-Khalil Huffman.
PC: What do you expect from poetry being written in 2021?
PC: What advice would you give to emerging poets?
VH: Listen to your own voice. Learn all the ways of it.