By Guest Contributor May Lui, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet
Souvankham Thammavongsa is a Laotian Canadian poet, author of the ReLit-winning Small Arguments and Found. Found was also adapted into a short film by Paramita Nath, which screened at film festivals worldwide including Dok Leipzig and Toronto International Film Festival.
Souvnkham has been published in many literary magazines and journals and has been invited to read at Harbourfront’s International Festival of the Authors 2011. Born in Thailand in 1978, she was raised in Toronto.
May Lui for Black Coffee Poet: Why poetry?
Souvankham Thammavongsa: It’s sort of like swimming in the deep end of a pool. You better know what you are doing there because it’s going to become very clear if you don’t. Looking good in a swimsuit isn’t going to help you out.
ML: Tell us about your writing process.
ST: I don’t write everyday. Sometimes I try to do anything but write. I work for a financial newspaper full-time and have been there for ten years. I work with numbers all day and this allows me to think in a language that doesn’t have anything to do with words, to remember that sometimes words aren’t everything. No one at work knows I write poetry and I prefer it that way. I like that there’s a place for me there no matter what happens to my writing, whether it fails or if it’s successful. It doesn’t matter. I also owned a used bookstore with my husband and wrote short stories all day when it snowed and we had no customers, except for the ones who told us we weren’t going to make it or asked us what we were doing there or if the knapsack in our window display was for sale. I learned that there are people in the world who want nothing to do with books, that there are those who at the sight of a bookshelf start to slowly back up towards the exit, that there are those who would buy themselves a three-dollar book and tell their curious and bright son they don’t want to buy him a book of his choosing because they’ve already spent more than they’ve wanted. That was a learning experience for writing I don’t think I would have gotten by writing.
I always let my writing sit around for a very long time and I never show my work to anyone until it’s done. If I give a reading at a festival or at a reading series, I’ll write something new to surprise myself or someone else who has seen me read before. I read whatever interests me like articles about boxing in Sports Illustrated or about the latest fashions in American Vogue. I try to keep up with the Leafs or catch a baseball game. I take sewing classes and learn how to make skirts and quilts, go to the museum or art gallery, get my hair cut or get my nails done to see how other people outside of writing create. I read old diary entries from when I was twelve-years-old to remind myself where I come from and to just have a giggle at myself because I know exactly how things will turn out or I read books written by writers I want very much to be. I try to learn new things like new recipes or garden or swim or drive—so I have new skills or something to talk about that doesn’t have to do with writing but can have something to do with writing. I watch a lot of silly movies and listen to music. I watch Pawn Stars and American Pickers on television. I like to meet with good friends for dinner at Guu and talk for hours and hours. When I do sit down to write, I can do it anywhere: on my lap, in a noisy bar, in the kitchen on the stove (off, of course), on the wall, and only when I must, on the computer.
ML: Found is a remarkable book of poetry. Tell us about what it means to find poetry in everyday items.
ST: For me, to find poetry in everyday items is remarkable. What precisely makes a thing remarkable? I like how the remarkable can come from and is held by what is unremarkable.
ML: How many poetry books have you had published?
ST: I have had two books published by Pedlar Press.
ML: How do you select the poems for each book?
ST: I try to choose the ones that make the prettiest dots.
ML: How long have you been writing poetry?
ST: If I count from the time I was first published in a little magazine, then it’s eleven years—but that isn’t considered to be very much time at all.
ML: Who are your influences?
ST: I like Agnes Martin, Richard Pryor, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Elizabeth Bishop.
ML: What inspires your writing?
ST: Other writing. And people, how they behave. Or things. I like to look at things especially.
ML: What are you working on right now?
ST: I am working on a collection of poems about light. It’s about what’s in the world, how it’s been given to us, and what we take from it.
And a quilt.
ML: Is there anything you’d like to say to emerging poets and writers?
ST: I think emerging poets and writers don’t want anything said to them. Especially since they’ve already emerged.
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- croquet on Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
- Shazza on The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale
- nicthommi on Comedian Aamer Rahman Explains “Reverse Racism”
- the_miekster on Race + The Netherlands: Resistance, Lost in Translation
- moniyer on Race + The Netherlands: Resistance, Lost in Translation
- The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
- The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale
- On Disability and Cartographies of Difference
- A Muslimah’s Guide to Rocking the World
- Quoted: Dr. David Leonard Pens Open Letter to Marissa Alexander
- The Acclaimed Web Series Black Folks Don’t Returns for a Third Season
- Comedian Aamer Rahman Explains “Reverse Racism”
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black celebrities comedy diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity interracial relationships Kerry Washington latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion Scandal sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes True Blood tv Uncategorized white youtube