Interview in Eclectica Magazine & a Reading in Brooklyn

by I Wayan Sudarsana Yansen

Grateful to Jonterri Gadson for her thoughtful questions about When The Only Light Is Fire. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

JG     The book’s arc seems to move from boyhood to various representations of manhood. The first half of the chapbook contains several “boy” poems: “Terrible Boy,” “Boy in Stolen Evening Gown,” “Boy at Edge of Woods,” and “Boy at Threshold.” The fire of the book’s title seems to start in the trauma detailed in these poems, in the fields of these poems. How does trauma influence your writing?

SJ     I think of fire as a difficult knowledge. It illuminates, but something must be destroyed in order for that to happen. That paradox, to me, is the task of becoming a person. What am I going to burn down in order to clear a space for my foundation? That is what the archetypal “boy” of the poems is asking himself over and over.

With that being said, perhaps the hardest part of this process isn’t the trauma itself but the fact that boys, in particular, are conditioned to repress their feelings about trauma. I tried to reflect that in the first section of the chapbook by keeping the menace at the edges of the page. In “Terrible Boy,” for example, there are coded references and the final image, but the boy never actually says what is happening exactly.

Also, if you’re in NYC this Wednesday, 1/4, I’ll be reading with Megan Boyle & Thom Donovan as part of the Blue Note Reading Series in Brooklyn. It should be a hoot. Here are the details.


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