M.I.A. spotlight: Dawn Sueoka

DSC00150What is the book (or story) that you are currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project having to do with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I think is a kind of surreal and grotesque and fascinating display of capitalism and colonialism, among other things. At the same time, I can’t deny that I also find it exhilarating—like watching a Busby Berkeley musical. I’m interested in how the parade can be all these things at once. So far, the project has taken the form of me writing prose-poem “translations” of each float in the 2013 parade. I haven’t gotten very far yet.

 Where did the idea come from and does it fall under a specific genre?

I’m not sure why, but I sometimes have intense emotional reactions to certain large public spectacles. I have literally teared up watching youtube videos of the Goodyear Blimp taking off, and of the Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade. Isn’t that strange? When I was casting around for something new to do, I asked myself “well, what am I curious about now?” and the answer was, of course, parades!

At the moment, the project has taken the form of prose poems, but again, I’m not far into it at all. It may take different forms as the project and my thinking about it continue to develop. I’m especially interested in further exploring ideas relating to translation. Having read a lot of French and Japanese work in translation, I find that there’s a slight awkwardness or abruptness—self-consciousness, maybe?—to the language and especially the syntax that I’m drawn to. What, exactly, is going on there, and why?

What are you currently reading (and why should others be reading it too)?

I’ve been reading books relating to my parade project. I can’t get enough of Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger’s brilliant The Grey Bird, a collection of emoji poems and translations. I’m reading Johannes Göransson’s Haute Surveillance, though I have to admit, I can only read a little at a time because it’s extremely intense and violent—like a mashup of Bosch, PRISM, and Videodrome. Varese’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is right next to my computer, and I want to get my hands on Ashbery’s too, as I have recently read some interesting things he’s said about translating Rimbaud.

What are some upcoming titles in your reading list?

Sandra Simonds’s The Sonnets. Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Jaimie Nagle’sGertrude’s AtticFinery, the online journal of Gina Abelkop’s awesome Birds of Lace Press, published an excerpt from a comic called Meowsers by Caroline Picard. I don’t know any details, but I’d love to see more!

Who/what inspires your writing?

My partner, Genevieve Manset, is a huge inspiration to me. We’re both writers (we met in the Naropa low-residency MFA program) and we try to keep each other motivated. We read our work aloud to each other, discuss what we’re reading, share writing exercises, and swap books.

In addition, I’m inspired by the usual: bits of overheard dialogue, politics, visual art, song lyrics, people watching, my own weird dreams. In the last few years, I’ve been really enjoying a WFMU radio show called “Do or DIY” with People Like Us, aka artist Vicki Bennett. The collage aspect of the show has been really useful to my own work.

What does your writing process entail?

I try to write for an hour before work every day—more on the weekends. I “warm up” by writing stream-of-consciousness “nonsense,” usually based on random notes I’ve jotted down in my notebook. (Looking back over these warm-ups, I see that I am often asking myself “what is going on here?”) Then I get into more deliberate work, like revising. For me the key is carving out time for daily practice. If I go too many days without writing, it’s difficult for me to get back into the groove.

Who would you like to give a shout out to in the writing community and why?

Without a doubt, Jaimie Nagle. It’s a tremendous amount of work to organize one reading, let alone one a month for five years straight!  I feel a great sense of community around MIA readings, and I always return home inspired to write. I’m so grateful for everything Jaimie’s done, and I’m looking forward to the next five years :).

M.I.A. spotlight: Joanna Gordon

JoannaWhat is the book (or story) that you are currently working on? 

Not currently working on a book or story, rather a one-woman show to be produced sometime next year. It’ll be the culmination of my Honors project, and will be choreographed, staged, and produced by myself. This will be my first time doing such a thing, but I’m very excited!

Where did the idea come from and does it fall under a specific genre?

The idea has not really derived from anywhere, rather it was existed for a long time. As a white, middle-class woman I have always wanted to expose the complexities that exist within these social constructs. My own narrative will be at the center of this, but I also might be holding interviews for other narratives as well. The focus for this project is still being refined, and very much still in the works. 

What are you currently reading?

Since school has started, my attention has shifted to the war stories of the Iliad, as well as queer theories by Eve Sedgwick, and Foucault. However, the most recent book that I finished was a delicious page turner called “Gone Girl.” In regards to what other should be reading, I would recommend anything by Patricia Grace, or any pacific poet.

What are some upcoming titles in your reading list?

Upcoming titles on my reading list? Woah. The list is long my friend. Starting with “Perfect Girls Starving Daughters”, “The Beauty Myth” and “Vagina” by Naomi Wolf, “Wretched of the Earth”, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (again), some works by Rumi, Afakasi Speaks (again), and many others.  

Who/what inspires your writing?

All of the titles above, are inspirations, but some to add to the list Carrie Rudzinski, Terisa Siagatonu, and Danez Smith, and my boyfriend Harrison Ines because they are constantly challenging me to break down what has been socially internalized, and reminding me that the world needs more allies because there is so much more work to be done.

What does your writing process entail?

My writing process involves copious amounts of cold water, a purring cat, riot girrl music or whimsical folk, and a notebook. I usually start with rough ideas in a notebook, which will then move to a revising and editing phase onto my computer. 

Who would you like to give a shout out to in the writing community and why?

Shout out to Pacific Tongues for taking a lost girl on crutches under their wings and constantly reminding me to keep writing and to keep searching for answers. Also shout out to the English Department here at UH, especially Craig Santos Perez for doing great things and truly supporting their writers. 

M.I.A. spotlight: Rain Wright

IMG_2345What is the book (or story) that you are currently working on?

I am presently moving A Way with Water beyond its current stage as an MA thesis and into a state of publication. I am also working on a piece of fiction, Stone, which focuses on mother-daughter relationships in the presence of substance abuse and abandonment. It is set on the Big Island.

Where did the idea come from and does it fall under a specific genre?

A Way with Water, a dual narrative, traces my mother’s journey from England to the United States and from California to Hawai‘i with three children in tow to escape a physically abusive relationship; and my stepfather’s journey from Black Bottom, Detroit, to the Air Force, and finally to Hawai‘i island, as one of the first black men and jazz musicians there. The narrative examines notions of identity within a counter-cultural lifestyle often interacting with Hawaiian and local cultures—a dynamic that requires not only respect for the host culture, but also an awareness of how my narrative is in dialogue with other Hawai‘i writers. A Way with Water explores non-fiction, poetry, and prose to create hybrid and evolving forms within the field of memoir and biography.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I felt inspired to read it this summer when I came across a news article online about Ferguson, MO. The woman in the article said something along the lines of, “We don’t matter. We are invisible.” Her words struck me as particularly powerful.

What are some upcoming titles in your reading list?

This is Paradise: Stories by Kristina Kahakauwila
Milk and Filth (Camino del Sol) by Carmen Giménez Smith

Who/what inspires your writing?

Other writers. Ideas. Images. Memories. People. Passing phrases. Nature.

What does your writing process entail?

I write the story extensively in my mind before I put it on paper. I write while gardening, sleeping, walking—everywhere and at all times possible. Once I’ve created it in my mind—to a place where it won’t let up—I put it on paper. I listen to music while I write. I’ve found that music without lyrics works best. It doesn’t interfere with my words, my lyrical sense, my rhythm in writing.

Who would you like to give a shout out to in the writing community and why?

Craig Santos Perez for his generosity and guidance.