Books Literature poetry

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by the very talented poet Kirsten Irving to give this interview for an expanding blog project called The Next Big Thing. You can read her interview here!

The idea is to post mine and tag other writers to do the same on 9 January 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I suppose the writing follows from Summer Cicadas, my previous book, even if the two books are quite different in style and voice. I’ve always been trying to understand what it’s been like to emerge from our families, childhood, education and impressionable years, being a product of where we came from, and yet choosing to be who we want to be. I grew up in a rather conservative Chinese community where there’s a clear sense of what’s good and what’s not, and that superstitions make up reality. I ate steamed fish with ginger slices and I would avoid going out on ghost festival day. When I came to England to study and to work, I felt that nothing’s the same anymore: I needed to modify my beliefs or make up rules as I went along. I think the book is a response to the tectonics of growing up, and the need to understand what’s going on.

What genre does your book fall under?

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d love to see poems turned into films, for poetry has a very sensual and cinematic quality to it. I’d love to see Faye Wong or Tang Wei play the female protagonist in some of the poems set in Asia, say ‘2046’ inspired by Wong Kar Wai’s movies. Norah Jones or Lea Seydoux for the more sensual poems such as ‘Entwined’: their faces express such strength in character, such vulnerability. Yu Aoi will be great for ‘Roppongi Hills’.

2046 whisper into tree

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Time travels in a bottle, bobbing up and down the vast ocean: time marked with fairytales, taboos, childhood dreams and shaken truths that build our characters.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

More than I envisaged! Some of the poems are more recent, some have drafts dating back to a few years, and they keep changing. I keep coming back to the work, adding and transforming it, changing the characters and the narratives, and above all trimming away. I  want to make it easy for anyone to get something out of my work: those who normally read poetry and those who don’t. In time these ideas grow and evolve. Sometimes people I get to know or new encounters would change my mind about the way the poems should travel.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Childhood, dreams, and works of art inspire me. They give me hope, yearning, and strange ideas. Think of a music box with a ballerina, a hot air balloon, games invented by kids, Chinese superstitions, conversation overheard in a local pub…When I was in primary school, there’s a girl in my class who liked to keep a scrapbook full of ghost story clippings from newspapers. She used to tell me those stories when we walked home after school. They used to give me such goose bumps.

When I was writing this book, I come across works of the others that really speak to me — Heaney, Kay Ryan, Simon Armitage, just to name a few — their poems make me understand that there is something very mysterious and global about poetic language, that well-considered words put together with such economy can be shared and understood among complete strangers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is a coming-of-age book, something about being Asian and yet not quite. It’s about what you struggle for, the authenticity of self-beliefs. I’m also interested in how class affects or changes people.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
Goldfish will be published by Chameleon Press in early 2013.


It’s new year time when everyone is away, but I think these amazing fellow writers will be posting up their own responses to the questions soon! Make sure you check them out on/after 9 January 2013.
1. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
2. Rob Mackenzie
3. Nikola Madzirov (soon!)
4. Marisa Sd

2 comments on “The Next Big Thing

  1. I liked this interview. Thanks. I was surprised that Kirsten Irving wrote a poem about 2046. I too wrote a 2046 poem:

    2064 is not a year
    Not a room number
    Nor a state of mind
    It’s a hidden glance
    Reflected in the Sun

    She is always here in 2064
    Light simmers among the flowers
    Some say she is waiting
    But light is who she is
    Never changing Never the same

    Went to 2046 today
    In and out of mind
    Looks like this
    Looks like that
    Unsure how to come back

    Space is multi-layered in 2064
    Folding in upon itself
    Revealing mystery
    Concealing banality
    Even time is confused

    Traveled to 2046 by boat
    Arrive to unchanging time
    Sun never sets
    Moon always full
    Her kisses last forever

    Some say 2064 has no exit
    No going back in time
    No return to our beginnings
    But they are quite wrong
    Still the price of return is high

    Some say the price is death
    Others say the price is life
    Or that which we value most
    Now the moon is well past full
    And none have returned from 2046

    We never really see light in 2064
    Only her complex reflections
    Gentle as the floating flowers
    Deep as the hidden moon
    Always awaiting our touch

    Meaning splits infinitely in 2046
    Symbolic imagery challenges life
    Death reaches beyond the sky
    Networks of reflected shadows
    Dance with the Queen of Hearts

    2064 is not a year
    Is not a room number
    Nor a state of mind
    It’s a hidden glance
    Reflected in your eyes

    yamabuki Zhou
    Aug 2012
    Thanks to
    Wong Kar Wai

  2. jenniferinlondon

    Thanks for sharing your poem. Very vivid!

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