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Arlene Ang is the author of The Desecration of Doves (2005), Secret Love Poems (Rubicon Press, 2007) and Bundles of Letters Including A, V and Epsilon (Texture Press, 2008), co-written with Valerie Fox. She lives in Spinea, Italy where she serves as a poetry editor for The Pedestal Magazine and Press 1. More of her writing may be viewed at www.leafscape.org.
1) Can you talk about your history with poetry? How did you get started?
I started writing poetry in high school, mostly to do with homework. I also enjoyed passing cheeky notes in class pretending to be this Mad Magazine character who speaks in verse, tells everyone he'd stop but then get worse. That, or I was pretending to be one of the witches in Macbeth. Talk about lowly beginnings.
2) Your poem "Swirling" in NOÖ [five] calls attention to the way we fill our lives with marginal players, the idea that we're all our own heroes walking around in a world full of stories we don't know. What's funny to me is that it's such a serious theme, such a serious poem, really, and yet on your blog you're always very funny and full of smiley faces. How do you reconcile those moods in your poetry? Are they like two strangers, like the speaker and the cleaning lady in "Swirling," or is it all pretty easy?
Funny that you should mention! People said the same thing about my dad, who was an artist. I remember the vet sidling up to me to whisper the moment his back was turned, "I saw your dad's work in the Sunday newspaper! Those scary, rabid dogs! No one believed me when I said he's my client, that he actually... loves... dogs!" How to explain this? In all forms of art, we tend to express how we feel but this feeling doesn't necessarily reflect how we are in real life. "Swirling" is indeed a sad poem, not something I've experienced myself, but observed in the lives of old people in Italy.
I do like the analogy you made between me/writing and the speaker/cleaning lady. The concept of writing poetry as a way for the self to clean up after itself in some psychological way is fascinating, something to explore under a microscope.
3) Recommend for us some recent faves: poems, books, literary magazines, poets, etc.
I finally received my copies of Forklift, Ohio (#12, #18) and loving them -- it's probably the only print journal I can't live without. I'm also rereading Andrea Barrett's gorgeous collection of short stories, Ship Fever. And then there's Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy -- a fantasy novel that hits closer to reality than a history book: first I hated it, then I worshiped it... but only after brooding over its depressing implications for a whole week. Recent poets I've gone bonkers for would be Barbara DeCesare, Dobby Gibson, Sean Lovelace, Andrew Mossin and Ronald Palmer.
4) Give us some news on current projects or publications.
Bundles of Letter Including A, V and Epsilon, a poetry collection I wrote with Valerie Fox was recently published by Texture Press. We have some readings this October scheduled in Philadelphia to help market the book. I'll post our schedule on my blog before I leave on the 16th in case anyone would like attend.
5) Where do you see your writing in five years? It's okay if you don't think like this. Be as fantastical as you'd like.
In five years, I plan to get my most worthwhile writing on the internet or in print. Burglars have been going through the flats in our condo like a sieve, stealing fur coats and computers. Last week they ransacked the flat next door. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Once they steal this computer, everything will be gone, gone, gone!!!
I like doomsday scenarios, don't you?
6) I taught twelve-year-olds last summer. How would you explain poetry to someone half that age, a six year old?
The nearest age group I've encountered personally is my three-year-old niece... and explanations have little effect on her. I did notice that she tends to imitate what she sees or hears -- if it tickles her fancy enough. Maybe it would be a better idea to read poetry aloud with kids, make them live the experience. Something fun to help generate their interest, like Ogden Nash's poems or a Dr Seuss book.
7) What are your interests beyond poetry?
The first thing that comes to mind is food, eating more than cooking. In a half-hearted manner, I take pictures creatively. I'm also something of a video game addict. Taken with moderation, I like liquor -- color and taste not particularly important. Oh, and yes, eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers.
8) Word association game with words from your poem. Say whatever comes to mind:
Clean = House
Storm = Water
War = Horse
Here = Burglar
First = Now
Keys = Stroke