Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More

(AV17835) Lucky Fish: A Reading


welcome to the 8th annual symposium on
wildness wilderness and the imagination this is our kickoff reading really
pleased to bring Amy NASM commit to teal to campus and she’s going to be
introduced by our one of our grad students in the MFA program Denise
Rogers janice rogers and if you could please silence your cellphone’s I also
want to emphasize that there is no greater compliment to a writer and
buying their book and asking for an autograph within it so they’re for sale
just beyond that doorway and I hope you’ll stick around to talk to Amy
afterwards there also be a Q&A session to follow so as you’re sitting here try
to maybe sketch out some pressing questions you might have for her so that
said Janice okay again welcome everyone to our
wildness symposium so this afternoon I’m I have the fortune of introducing a mean
azúcar Matata who comes to us from the statement University of New York at
Fredonia where she is associate professor of English
she teaches creative writing and environmental literature ami has three
poetry collections all of which received numerous awards and accolades her first
miracle fruit won the Tupelo Press poetry prize for word magazine’s
Book of the Year award the global Filipino award among many other
acknowledgments at the drive-in volcano won the balcony’s Prize and her most
recent collection which we’ll be hearing some of this afternoon lucky fish was
published just last year and won the gold medal in poetry from the
independent book independent publisher book awards and the Eric Hoffer grand
prize for independent books some of her recent honors some of which Jen already
described if you were here for the panel earlier include a poetry fellowship from
the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pushcart prize the poems of lucky
fish take us around the country and abroad we see 100 islands National Park
in the Philippines we see her grandmother’s house and Corolla India
where we can almost smell her grandmother’s cinnamon plants and
imagine the preparation of fish trapped and steamed in a single banana leaf and
wish we could stay for dinner last night amy was telling me about how everyone
thinks their grandmother’s food and cooking is the best and how her
grandmother’s really is the best and based on her writing I think I could
believe her durian Lau is said here is a poet willing to praise the earth animals
the mud in its confusion as well as the human sleep sloppy mouths these are
sensual dreams dreamscapes of allegory and fable but with the righteous bite
and the razor sting of perception in a recent poetry workshop here at Iowa
State that I’m taking this semester we got the chance to read lucky fish in our
class collectively really admired the way Ami’s poems embrace life’s chaos her
voice is jubilant with a sense of wonder that creates a landscape that’s entirely
new to her readers and we were just talking before that we’re really glad
that birth Geographic made it into that collection it’s a poem that we all
really loved so we were glad that was in there so with that please welcome Amy thank you so much Janice and Ben and
Iowa State the Cyclones for hosting me I’ve this is the first time I’ve seen
the Sun I kid you not in about six and a half days so I’m very I know you guys
plan that just for me so thank you very much in Buffalo we don’t get much Sun in
the month of February as you can imagine I’m gonna start off I’m gonna read from
actually all three of my collections and I’m gonna start off with one it’s
actually one of my favorite writing assignments and and I know because you
none of you are gonna be going home to watch the Oscars you’re gonna be staying
here and even if you are to go home you have nothing else better to do than to
go online and check out this site called the fovea list.com
what it is it’s a treasure trove of writing ideas so I was I don’t believe
in writer’s block I always get irritated when my students say I don’t know what
to write that kind of thing but if you do fall on that I would say check out
this website the fovea list com I’m the daughter of a retired
psychiatrist and so what this is my mom had volumes of these at home hardcopy
but now for your convenience it’s online all the diagnosed phobias that have ever
been documented around the world so you’ve got things like the fear of
peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
pappa phobia the fear of the pope the fear of bald people just all kinds of
phobias so so um as I always try to do the writing exercises along with my
students you can either write from the point of view of somebody who has this
phobia or just write about the phobia itself and I chose the latter
and this one is called I always stumble over it
it’s hepato months Joyce’s capital F obeah which is the fear of long words in the longest word in the Oxford
English Dictionary I actually did include it here so I will stumble on
that as well such as deaf where on the first day of classes I secretly begged
my students don’t be afraid of me I know my last name on your semester schedule
is chopped off or probably misspelled or both I can’t help it I know the panic of
too many consonants rubbed up against each other no room for vowels to fan
some air into the room of a box marked instructor you want something to really
startle you try tapping the ball of roots of a potted tomato plant into your
cupped hand one spring only to find a small black toad who kicks his cold eye
at you and the Sun be afraid of the x-rays for your teeth or lung and pray
for no dark spots you may have new mono ultra-microscopic silikal volcanic koni
koni osis or coal lung be afraid of money spiders tiptoeing across your face
while you sleep on sweet fat couch but don’t be afraid of me my last name what
language I speak or what accent does itself on my molars I promise I will
tell jokes I promise I will help you see the gleam of the beak of a mohawk
cockatiel i will lecture on luminescent sweeps of ocean full of tiny
dinoflagellates using green light when disturbed
I promise dark gatherings of toadfish and comical shrimp just when you think
you are all alone in this class hoping to stay somehow afloat during the session with Dan a little bit
earlier we talked about kind of some beginnings of our writing or what we
kind of read growing up that kind of thing and I mentioned I didn’t really
kind of read poetry and I didn’t read really literature I was reading medical
textbooks and then just kind of processing the folktales from India and
the Philippines that my parents gave gave us before bedtime one of the folk
tales that my mother the sub psychiatrist would talk about right
before bed was her favorite flower which is now my favorite flower and it’s
called the corpse flower when I last lived in Madison Wisconsin actually it
was the first time that a corpse flower ever bloomed in America it’s usually
found in Southeast Asia did you know this team did you see the cursor on your
there yeah I Dean was in Madison the same time I was anyway I was very
pleased to see that there was a line for Dave Matthews tickets and online for the
corpse flower that day and I was very pleased with humanity to see the line
for the corpse flower was actually longer than the line for Dave Matthews
tickets and so it’s a very big kind of occurrence the those of you her musical
buffs the Little Shop of Horrors was based on this plant you’re not supposed
to own it essentially and you’ll see why here this is called the corpse flower so
keep in mind this is like a bedtime story designed to help us sleep the
corpse flower and when the farmer saw the giant flower with a smell like bad
fish and bad sugar he could not look away the purple skirt of the bloom
begged him to return and so he did with a pail of water and sang to it and
caressed it and swiped beetles away from the blossoms lip he even gave it a name
and when the farmer said the name out loud the flower began to move and then
completely devoured him villagers searched and searched for the farmer
when me two stumbled upon the large blossom they decided to name it after a
beautiful Jaguar that once killed several children but this flower does
not want to be named does not want to be owned when the flower heard the name it
stretched to the closest villager and ate her ate the name as well so that
gave me all kinds of fun dreams growing up and then in a very small town in
western western New York where very often it’s kind of a slow news day
thankfully and it’s a very very small town so much so that so on our daily
newspaper the Dunkirk observer the main lead story of this paper was that it was
a kind of a reminder to everybody that it was your last chance to get your high
school picture retaken that was the lead there was a whole article on it so
that’s what I mean when it’s a slow news day in my town it’s a very slow news day
and so I just loved that concept and the title of this poem is high school
picture retake day I don’t know if any of you had heard it needed this day I
the reason why I’m resonated with me is because I always had to do this do you
don’t I mean when I say that like your pictures would come out whack for
whatever reason and then you had one final chance to kind of redeem yourself
that kind of thing that was me all the time always high school picture retake
game when octopus becomes stressed it chomps its
arms one by one until it becomes a floaty salad the line of students here
is understandably worried this is the last chance for redemption
Neal parts and parts his hair with the petite plastic comb the photographer
slipped him when he signed in and Suzie B ties her headband everyone here is
quiet but for the tiny songs of Tiny’s combs whistling through hair everything
here is black except for the single camera lamp and smudgy backdrop painted
to look like the student hovers among beige and blue clouds and maybe they are
the once you got it right the first time I mean soaring above the Earth’s
troposphere but still a little bit below the stratosphere when the last bell
rings there they are flying proud able to exchange wallet-sized pictures with
other pretty people right away now waiting for two months when nobody cares
anymore no closed eyes no sticks of hair sprung out like arrows no bra strap
showing no sleepy eyes just perfectly pressed shirts and smile slit to show
rows and rows of neat teeth ninth grade year we had kind of an again this is a
very very still small town we had kind of a record number of suicides in our
high school and for a small small town we had three suicides in one year so it
was kind of really difficult to kind of process and it was a very very strange
year to say the least and this kind of this poem kind of comes
out of that it was a very strange assignment that we were all given just
this week they didn’t change it up or anything and it was during so they
didn’t change up the biology kind of assignments and it was all dissections
so it was you can imagine am in for a very macabre
kind of week and month you know that kind of thing you would think hey this
happened let’s change outlets I don’t know study
about cells fusing together or something you know that kind of thing but we
started with this little worm called planaria the best part of biology class
wasn’t the frogs the white clammy bellies split open or the fetal pig eyes
cloudy blue shooter marbles it wasn’t when we held a cow’s fatty heart heavy
with dead blood in our trembling hands it couldn’t compare to the giant hissing
roaches scrambling along the sides of our homemade cardboard maze the best
part was the unit on worms before we pinned earthworm against crusty blue
rubber trays to count the hearts find the tiny pearls of ganglia and pinch out
its last meal of soil from its crop there was the worm called the fun area a
flat worm simple and slow in its petri dish see through under light and our
mini red scopes we had to cut off their heads with a razor blade some their
tails while they were still alive I feel sick with this murderous business
and I’d come to school early to check their progress and doubted my teacher’s
promise of regeneration snow drifted into tiny diagonal mounds against our
classroom window and sure enough like the crows crocus pushing purple through
dank malls when we least expect it my planaria finally grew another head
the other piece another tail to form two whole new worms their eye spots were a
bit wider now as if to add brighter lights to the celebration Kelly felts
planaria grew not one but five new heads and that year that year we were 14
surrounded by so much death until planaria saved us so much vim and vigor
so much nerve I’m a child of the 80s and so my friends
would kind of always make fun of me you know the usual eighties heartthrobs of I
don’t know Kirk Cameron Ricky Schroder that kind of thing mine wasn’t any one
of those and so I always have to kind of preface this when I want to say this
poem there used to be some of you may not realize this but I swear it’s true
there used to be a whole drama on TV called The Incredible Hulk it wasn’t a
cartoon but it was a drama with Bill Bixby as the scientist Bruce Banner
billed XP with my childhood crush so that kind of thing so when I say The
Incredible Hulk I don’t want you to picture the G CGI kind of monstrosity is
that have been out this this was an actual TV show I mean it was up for an
emmy award if you could believe that it seems kind of amazing now that there
would be an Incredible Hulk show on TV and people would watch it anyway um this
is called what I learned from The Incredible Hulk I learned when it comes
to clothes make an allowance for the unexpected
make sure the spare and the trunk of your station wagon with wood paneling
isn’t in need of repair a simple jean jacket says hey if you
aren’t trying to smuggle rare and can coin through this peaceful little town
and kidnap the local orphan I could be one heck of a mellow kind of guy but no
matter how angry a man gets a smile and a soft stroke on his bicep can work
wonders I learned that male chests also have
nipples warm and established and I learned that Green doesn’t always mean
envy it’s the meadows full of clover and chicory the Hulk seeks for rest a return
to normal and sometimes sometimes a woman gets to go with him correcting his
rumpled hair and the cuts in his hand Green is the space between water and Sun
cover for a quiet man each of his ribs shuttling drops of liquid light you folks are looking you don’t know
this but you’re looking at history here I was the first female football mascot
of my high school which in the early you know at that time that was kind of a
groundbreaking thing it was always male basketball players in the offseason
being the mascot and I fought to kind of get this position there was tryouts and
we had one of those you know kind of giant high schools in Ohio that football
was kind of just this giant deal so it was a huge secrecy we had everybody at
tryouts had to sign away like you can’t reveal who the mascot is but it was a
very weird kind of situation because because people thought these were
basketball players I would have girls come up to me being like hey guy you
know that kind of thing and try to like let’s meet after the game you know that
kind of thing so finally they put a bow on my head you know whatever whatever
floats your boat but just as long as you know that there’s a woman inside so the
key is I’m very very proud of this as you could tell still but the thing is is
my high school that’s called Beaver Creek High School so you can imagine our
mascot yes you guys know was the battling beaver so so this is one of the
few persona poems I’ve ever written this is called the mascot of Beaver Creek
High finally breaks her silence there are some suits more difficult to remove
spades Armour tweed in the summer those nights you thought I was home dateless
studying for chemistry memorizing the dates of epic battles
I was working myself into a lather of sweat for a field of angry young men
sometimes they were so close I could feel their hot breath in the space
between my head and furry neck even the captain of the
cheerleaders never went that far every hand that once reached for me still
haunts me at the most unexpected times as that place vegetables on the grocery
belt are walking the grill wall walkway at the Detroit Airport something still
pulls me to the ground then it’s not the crowd it’s not the scent of Cola and
popcorn it’s not the tinge of engine grease or a truck revving at homecoming
if you slice a Jacaranda bloom between two glass slides and place it on a
microscope the Corolla will always fight for the light if you once posed for any
pictures with me and still have them scattered somewhere in an attic look
carefully at the dark netting of my mouth if you squint hard you can see my
actual teeth clenched into a small scream I was like that every night it
was high school after all I was always cheering for something and I still AM
something was always worth cheering for there is always some cheer worth
something cheer for some worth always I dedicate this poem to one of my former
students great great great student when we first started we always clashed
across class no matter what I said she would kind of go just do her own thing
and she ended up going to Michigan she was my first EMA face my first student
to ever go to an MFA program so I’m especially proud of her but her deal was
with simile she would always use as anything for the second part of the
simile so it’d be like she’s fast as anything and heavy as anything angry as
anything you know dry as anything like no generators we don’t know what that is
you know that kind of thing so I in her honor
I call I’m calling this suddenly as anything one of my students uses this to
describe the way a person leaves the room and I Circle it with a question
mark and I scribble to vague with my red pen during my snowy walk home I bury my
nose into my already damp scarf I wonder if I’m a bad teacher and how the student
could possibly miss the whole point of my metaphor lecture and I wonder if this
ice won’t give just a little bit for my boos but the more I think about it the
more I think genius for who hasn’t vanished without so much as a trace of
waxy lip prints on a glass not even leaving a single stray hair on the back
of a chair sometimes disappear means leave quickly so I don’t feel your
absence carpenter ants don’t even shake one last message to their beloved Queen
Queen before they crawl away into a smooth piece of driftwood and set sail
for new shores and when he drove away last winter I avoided looking at the
ground for days so I would not find an imprint of his shoe and maybe what my
student meant is that anything could be lost even the good things a ring juicy
with rubies and moon sprang up up an orange so
at its segments beg to be unfolded like a blossom in your hand and even when the
Chara plant the world’s first known underwater vegetation suddenly
disappeared from this planet it gave no warning never even feigned a withering
of it’s bubbly leaves its hearty stems curling in and around bedrock brushing
the scales of mysterious stripe fish until its very last day I usually say this I’m just gonna meet
it this is called coke okay a coke okay I snuck up close to the boys that mark
where they are not responsible for you anymore and I find myself in a school of
blue and gold skipjack fish nothing but luminous fish color small bits of ocean
and the skipjacks here surround me don’t budge until I kick my flippers will they
be brave enough to kiss me they’re known as kissing fish pressing
their swollen blue lips to each other a wall of clams an aquarium glass a kite
shape shadow flies into focus a couple of yards away it’s easy that recognized
the raised slide the undulation of wing over a helpless line of shrimp I panic I
flip her my way back back to shore until I’m within shouting distance but the
tiny red sea horses glide in and out of the coral shrubs and I want one to curl
its ribbed tail around my finger a mermaids ring the next time I press my
hand on my love he would feel the gallop the Calvary is hair everyday and wild
width of hair I one day when I was teaching a Fredonia I took my email real
quick went off to teach came back and there was something like a hundred and
forty-three messages just not that unusual over maybe the span of a few
days but this was just within the span of an hour so I wondered what is going
on what is going on I still don’t actually know what
happened because nobody ever gave me the heads-up but apparently somebody was
teaching my book my first book in a high school class and was teaching Walt
Whitman I think at the same time and apparently this teacher gave out my work
email and apparently for as far as I could gather
said please email the author and tell her what you think of the book can
recommend so so it was a humbling moment for me as a writer what was interesting
about this is that the title of this poem is called dear Amy and it’s an a my
which is not how my name is foam and then Mizuki Amita – till and there are
six OS in my last name as as they wrote it but there’s actually not a single oh
in my last name at all and in order to get my work email to actually send me a
work email it’s my entire last name at Fredonia a TD so that’s what kind of
cracked me up they had to get it right to send it but during the actual email
they added six O’s to my last name so I just love that Moxie like I don’t even
care it just sounds like though so this is a found poem comprised
entirely of lines from high school students from their emails all I did was
break the lines dear Amy Mizuki ani to tootle if I were to ask you a question
about your book and sum it up into one word it would be why your book takes the
cake that one guy that one poem I guess you never know you are young you are so
young you are so very young you are so young to be a poet I like how your poems
take up an entire page because it makes our reading assignments go faster in
class we spent so much time dissecting your poems and then deeply analyzing
them sorry I think I like while I’ve been better than you but don’t take
offense you’re kind of okay you are young you are young and pure and you
seem like you just really want to have a good time thank you we have taken a
debate and you are a far better poet than Walt Whitman
and I loved how your poems are easy to read and understand hi my name is Alisha
we read your book and I just loved it we also read leaves of grass there was no
competition unlike the leaves of grass a lot better but yours was a really good
read hope she’s not my favorite type of literature and sometimes I’m not for
drinks and guys try to talk to me and sometimes I just brush it off and keep
dancing every once in a while the creepy mean guys try to offer me things and
then they say something I was wondering what would you do true that’s all true
lastly I was wondering if you ever wrote a poem that didn’t really have a deeper
meaning but everyone tried to give it one anyways sorry sorry I’m really sorry
sorry Walt Whitman is better than you so yeah that was a humbling day and I am
I the first year I was married I envisioned this kind of great summer of
being newlyweds that kind of thing um my husband I’d never lived with my husband
before we got married and so this was our first time just living with another
person we moved into this great little house a very cute neighborhood and then
it turned out that there was some shady dealings going on with our neighbors and
that wasn’t me being judgey the the police actually mounted a camera as to
mount a camera on our roof to monitor the goings it turns out actually there
was a active meth lab next door and so yeah and the thing is this was run by a
very very geriatric sweet sweet couple they come out and give me vegetables
from their garden Amy here you go make a pie or whatever it is that kind of thing
the minute and our houses were close enough together so that the minute they
went indoors they had the worst sailor mouth ever so it would be just like and just things that would just make me
cringe when I was sitting there just trying to eat my cereal and I could hear
them fighting and arguing and that kind of thing so that was going on on one
side and on the other side the headquarters of the arachnid Society of
Chautauqua County bought the house next door so so it was all hours of the night
people with spider problems would bring their spiders or tarantulas over
they take walks with them on leashes infer my house
you can’t even meet and so my husband I’m sure was just thinking like what did
I get myself into so there’s that that same month the same month we were
married in New York City I heard this on NPR and I looked it up this morning just
to make sure so I wasn’t just giving you wrong information a man I don’t know how
many of you watched that TV show hoarders or anything like that yeah a
few hoarders so this is pre hoarders but a man from New York City and call
nine-one-one himself and asked to be rescued from his apartment that was
overrun with a thousand and fourteen rats so it’s just got me thinking what
you know the quote was it about that thousands and 14th rap that just sent
him over the edge like I need help now you know that kind of thing
so I stirred all of this up into a poem it’s called baked goods flour on the
floor makes my sandal slip and a tumble into your arms too hot to bake this
morning but blueberries begged me to fold them into moist muffins sticks of
rhubarb plotted a whole pie the windows are blown open and a thick fruit Tang
sneaks through the wire screen and into the home of a scowl a couple who lives
next to her yesterday a man in the city was rescued his from his apartment
overrun with thousands of rats something about being angry because he let his pet
Python repeat because his pet Python refused to eat he just let the bloom of
fur rise rise over the gnarly blue rug rise over the coffee table rise over the
kitchen countertops and pip through each cabinet snip at the stumpy paper bags of
sugar and the cylinders of salt our kitchen love is a riot of pots wooden
spoons and melted butter so be it maybe all this baking will quiet the angry
voices next door if only for a brief with I water summers to always be like
this a kitchen wrecked with love a table overflowing with baked goods warming the
already warm air and after all the pots are stacked all the goodies cooled and
all the counters wiped clean let us never ever be rescued from this mess those of you who are parents in the
audience know that sometimes there’s this unspoken kind of weird competition
that takes place about kind of children’s milestones like um my baby’s
first started talking at 12 months or my kids started rollerskating at 6 months
or you know that kind of thing and I never really wanted to participate in
that but I started getting nervous and I wish
I could kind of go back to the to the new me new mother I was four years ago
because I was so nervous my son took a little bit longer than usual to speak to
first say his um his first words and so you know well-meaning friends would be
you might want to have him tested or he seems really quiet and withdrawn and so
you know the the overachiever I you know I was just making me very stressed my
mom was always kind of on me you know why is he not talking and now I’m happy
to say that wow I just missed those days where he was very very quiet he is he’s
a happy chatty vibrant vocabulary and this boy who just two hours ago was
asking if he was allowed because his father wasn’t letting him if he was
allowed to watch some jellyfish videos on YouTube so anyway so so so I wanted
to put that into context but at the time it was a very kind of scary dark time
for me and there isn’t it you know just the weird kind of pressure that other
mothers I found place on each other so this is called waiting for him to speak
sometimes she squints let the Queen who’s crown was too heavy for her head
sometimes she sighs and the sigh as a pin of wind through his hair and his
hair is the tobacco hue of an owl feather she repeats colors her name his
name points out cats and birds and his chunky books and he studies them close
but is silent because of these books she imagines daily what it would be like if
she were a momma owl and he were her outlet or if she
were a cat and he were her quiet kitty these are her thoughts now not about
what color of high-heeled shoe I wear to the party next week or the keycode of a
house once given to her by a married man now she reads her book her son books
about elephants on a bike hippos wearing pajamas and about more owls who seemed
to have gotten themselves lost there are only about 500 whooping cranes left on
this planet 300 California condors and just over six thousand or so beach mice
during the months that she waits for him to talk there will be even less of these
animals she feels guilty for waiting for wanting it so badly and by the time you
get to the end of this poem there will actually be no more pygmy rabbits left
on this earth the last one will die as she waits for her son to speak the
nights are loose long braids that unravel at the ends but he will have his
books he will always have his books and the last one I’m going to read is a car
Munna figure out a poem which is a fancy way of saying a concrete poem the poem
itself is shaped in the form of in the shape of what the poem is about so for
food Carmina figure out of poems the poem itself is in the shape of a food
the assignment I gave was to write about your favorite food and I chose spareribs
which are my favorite food and so these are this poem is written in the shape of
two ribs why I crave ribs tonight baby don’t even come near me with that napkin
just let me at each bone slick and sweet with smoky sugar sauce see all the steam
when I notice the meat off with my tongue it’s the only kind of cloud we
see this lemonade day in June all this driving and I need to feel food in my
hands no knife or fork tonight I want to burn my lips just enough but not too
much it hurts to kiss and that reminds me of the glowing heart inside of me how
each road curves around and locks tight and neat snaps along the back make your
hand like that around my small wrist and lead me into the bathroom stand with me
in the shower and feel the tender spot just underneath my ribs lift my hands
above my head and trace the space bone space bone space bone space bone down my
sides with the blue bar of soap let this let this be the only way
I will ever come clean thank you we have some time for questions if
people want to ask questions I know some of you already asked them but as I
always say to my classes no question is too big no question is too small who
wants to throw something out there I’ll be sure to tell my husband good question good question I do have a
very full life one that I’m really kind of proud of in it it’s a lot of work to
kind of keep full and active you know that kind of thing I very much want to
be an active parent you know that kind of thing and I also want to be a
pleasant friend to be around movie you know that kind of thing and also a
teacher who’s not just kind of being halfway in the classroom you know that
kind of thing so it has been I mean I’m not gonna I’m
the the real deal of is that many times at night I’m brushing my teeth after a
long full day and thinking huh I had three ideas for a poem today and I have
no idea what they are you know that’s you know that’s usually what my kind of
day is is like kind of in some ways I do though and there’s no set schedule and I
know there’s some people who have amazing times who can find a way to like
just make it to the computer and make it to the desk every day I think when I
whenever I try to do that that’s when the self-loathing comes in because
there’s gonna be something that happens literally and this is not even I can’t
even like make this stuff up the day I was supposed to leave here for Ames I
had I have this kind of quiet cuddle time with my four-year-old when my
husband takes care of my youngest in the morning to let us sleep in a little bit
today so that morning I was telling him oh I’m gonna be leaving soon but you’re
gonna have a great time watching jellyfish videos that kind of thing he’s
and he’s literally like mommy I don’t feel so good and I was like how do I leave you know
at that point on the other hand the reality of is I cannot wait to leave you
know in some ways it’s a myth and it’s not because I don’t you know and anybody
who’s seen me with my son knows that that is the apple of my eye but on the
other hand I think it’s very important to find that kind of up to know like
when you absolutely need to be present that kind of thing and of course I
didn’t just ditch my Mystics son you know that kind of thing I’m very much
stay stay put until I knew he was okay and helped out my husband and that kind
of thing but I also know that I would not be as good of a mom or as good of a
wife or as good of a friend if I didn’t have take that time away and have say a
week or so at a at a writing retreat or something like that this year was the
first year I didn’t apply out to a writing retreat and so I kind of made my
own thankfully I’m blessed with a very understanding husband who was a writer
who’s also very handsome and so he kind of knows he knows like an
unhappy Amy isn’t an unhappy for me as well and so so my friend married some of
my writer friends who are all educators as well we there’s a colony called the
Malay colony up in upstate New York they had this wonderful program for people
who just kind of want to who don’t have time for a full month residency I don’t
think I could be away kind of for that long for my family but for a week you
can reckoned of rent out the space and just have that kind of solitude in that
quiet time I work late into the night I said something I don’t really
necessarily envision but it’s just I feel like as long as all of those pieces
are kind of actively as long as that as long as I’m kind of like actively being
present all of those pieces then I feel full even if I feel harried I feel full
it’s the times when I think oh I have to spend all this time because I have
deadlines on XYZ writing that’s when the self-loathing comes in because I think
I’m such a horrible mom you know or conversely spending so much time with
whatever kids or our friends or whatever then I think oh my gosh I’m a horrible
writer no one’s gonna know who I you know that kind of thing so there’s
no kind of easy answer except for the fact that for each individual person you
have to find ways to make yourself feel full and then I think the success will
come I think you know and however you define that success so to me success is
knowing like when my when my kids are sick they call out still for me for
mommy even though I’m the one that’s kind of away the most you know that kind
of thing so it’s kind of a roundabout answer but yeah it’s a great question
great question I’m tired a lot people say it’ll get
better but I don’t know I have a very active 19 month old then he’s the one
that kind of takes up my energy right now but but I wouldn’t change also for
the world so when I was in grad school and single I mean at the time I thought
I was so busy you know that kind of thing and you know and I was it was very
different but that’s also important I also know friends in grad school who
were dealing with taking care of their older parents or whatever you know so
for everybody it’s different you know I mean there has to be just finding the
way to kind of you know make yourself feel full and active in all of those
pieces yeah other questions it doesn’t have to be big – it could be
really small and superficial and anything yeah yeah yeah you know um I talked a little
bit earlier someone asked kind of about what is my mindset when I sat down to
write either longhand or at the computer I never set out to say oh this is gonna
be a love poem or oh this is gonna be a poem about nature that kind of thing but
what happens for me the poem always starts with an image an image that I
can’t get out of so it’s not just a visual image but a scent or a sound that
kind of thing in a way that I love that actually you kind of answered it in some
ways when you say that critical mass I love that description there there is
it’s like this kind of very dynamic kind of bubbling or overflowing pasta pot of
ideas and that’s when I know okay kids need to go to a babysitter for
a minute or husband needs to kind of figure out dinner on his own or whatever
and then I need to get to the computer but it always starts for me I’m always
in awe of people who say I’m gonna write about X Y Z and I have the title already
I just need to write the poem I just don’t work that way it’s always starting
with an image or news sources that kind of thing to kind of trigger something
that I wanted to write about and that was that was the first poem I ever wrote
as a married woman and I didn’t know that oh I’m gonna sit down today and
write my first poem as a married woman a love poem to my husband and that was not
my intention at all but it was that critical mass of just concentrated
images of hearing the swear words hearing just picturing in my mind these
thousand rats running over the counter tabs and then the actual very real
reality of my kitchen always being a wreck because I’m baking all the time so
so yeah so so very much so and I keep wouldn’t actually going back to dean’s
original question is that so I’m gonna always get
the desk everyday but I’m always writing in like in it when I call it an image
journal that kind of thing so I have either online or a snippet and to me if
I can get one image down that’s that’s a good day you know that kind of thing I
can say there’s better days than others but to me that’s all kind of writing so
that I never know if that story about the rats in New York City is ever gonna
make it but two years down the road two months down the road two days down the
road it might you know that kind of thing but I find especially now with all
the things I’m juggling if I don’t get it down I will completely forget it that
kind of thing no Renee my tone is actually the one who first introduced
the concept of an image journal to me and it’s something I still have been
doing since grad school other things finished I was the fish lucky is the
question I don’t want to be like figure it out on your own but kind of figure it
out on your own I was I will say this so maybe just to kind of just alter the
question just have light a little bit the title of my latest collection is
lucky fish that’s kind of and what I will say is that that’s kind of the
that’s me that’s kind of what I felt at the time when I was compiling the
process my first two books were celebrations of life and the second one
was very much a celebration of life but exploring the darkness in nature and the
not so pretty parts of nature that kind of thing and so for this third book it
really was very much a joyful kind of Testament it’s kind of like a it’s kind
of my love letter to life as cheesy as that sounds but if you’re a poet to say
that that’s really risky you know I don’t have an angsty bone in my body in
some ways and I don’t also have a cool bone I think probably and I’m definitely
the cheesiest poet you know that you’ll ever meet and
we’re of that so take all this with a grain of salt but that was the kind of
the overall arching that’s it’s the only kind of Testament I can give to just the
luck and the blessedness that I felt at that point in my life so for me the
symbol of the lucky fish and do you guys know this plastic little fortune fish
that they give out sometimes the Chinese restaurants I actually I thought it was
I had some more and I didn’t I usually give them out at readings it’s a plastic
redfish and you seen these you put them in the palm of your hand and then
according to body heat it moves their Wiggles in a certain way so if it stays
put that means you will die soon but but if it Wiggles a certain way you’ll find
you love or you’ll get a new fortune if it flips over that kind of thing so I
just kind of I don’t know so I was kind of working with all of those those
themes of what is true luck and what is fate what is destiny how much of it do
you make your own you know that kind of thing but a choices that you make those
are all kind of large objects that any poet kind of would really would cringe
to kind of talk about my you know their own work that way but yeah that’s kind
of that’s kind of my total evasion of the question but I will say that lucky
fish is a stand-in for just kind of the persona of a me you know as close as it
can be okay that’s fun that’s fun that’s great that’s great good question good
question oh I mean you know I mean I was writing
some dreadful haiku you know I don’t know if I’d even call that I mean like
literally and this is how sad the state of poetry was in suburban Phoenix
Arizona it won a contest but here was my haiku it was called rainbow but the
actual words of the haiku was literally the colors of the rainbow so it’d be
like red orange yellow and I think I cut one color because it didn’t fit the 575 so I to even think that that was even
considered poetry then but and it was very much I think because so many people
made fun of me for that but I immediately was like the poet straight
forget it so it was kind of said I didn’t really
ever return to it until my junior year in college it was quite by happenstance
I think if you were here this afternoon it was very much an accident I was a
fledgling chemistry major struggling over an organic chemistry lab in my
honors dormitory study hall and someone had left the poem on the desk I didn’t
even know that it was a poem that’s how divorced I was from from from just
literature really in general but it knocked my socks off I was I took my
breath away literally I gasped when I read it and it’s the poem in snowball by
um Naomi Shihab nine this of you know her work and I didn’t know what it was
so I tacked it up to the bulletin board and said whose handout is this place see
Amy in room whatever whatever that kind of thing and the guy who had left it in
the study lounge had said yeah that was mine it’s called a poem you know that
kind of I asked class is this can I go with you to this class just basically to
shadow him so I skipped my lab that I wasn’t completed anyway skipped my lab
and sat in on a poetry workshop I didn’t even know that approach’ workshop
existed really that kind of thing my high school poetry education was very
much considered the teacher has the key and we have to unlock it
renown was a symbol of something and if you didn’t know that symbol then you
were just a loser you know that kind of thing sorry is set in on that poetry
workshop and it changed my life it literally changed my life and that
poetry workshop director or leader ended up directing my thing what would be my
thesis in grad school David Santino who’s no longer with us
but he took kindness if it II I’m this fledgling chemistry major and said that
I could shadow and sit down on out at his class and the next semester I
switched my major so that I could do it so that’s why I said I just always felt
so behind and I always had to read read read so I could name drop these poets
that people were calling out as well so that it felt very late to me in some
ways because I have a lot of organic chemistry kind of background and poetry
stood and I like that though I still feel like I’m a student of poetry so I
don’t want that to ever stop actually the proverbial stuff hit the fan
basically you know I was destined my mother was the first doctor in her
Philippine village in northern northern luzon it was my destiny to be the second
doctor you know that kind of thing they had put in in the Philippines in this
village they have giant plaques that for doctors and so no other profession but
they said it will say like dr. Paz of Selena doctora you know above above the
year that she graduated medical school that kind of thing my name was already
pensive like not that pencil because it was stood rain it wasn’t permanent but
it was already like in place to be the next one once I had committed to Ohio
State’s pre-med program so the pressure was on this was like the family compound
of hundreds of years that thing all my life you know whenever
someone would ask the little two-year-old what do you want to be here
that kind of thing I would say doctor you know
just mimicking essentially my mom is still my greatest hero you know that
because they I wanted to be her you know but then when I told them after I
changed my major before I ever told him and then I set them down one day when I
was visiting home from college and said look Lucas always asked me you know to
do the thing and I thought you could not you felt empty without and it was
literature for me and stuff like that so and they were like a literature you know
and swearing in their native languages tagalog for my mom and swear words from
malayalam for my dad and it’s just a cacophony of swear words and because I
think they really thought I was going to be on the corner of Times Square with
the empty cup saying failed poet you know that kind of thing please please
kiss me but you know that now so fast-forward so they finally I mean I
don’t know if that’s for five six months I finally got on board and then
ultimately now it’s ridiculous they’re my greatest fans anytime anything is
published or reviewed or anything like that they’re the first to make a copy
and tack it on their little Retirement Center in Florida you know Hey look at
my daughter my books come out it’s embarrassing it’s totally embarrassing
so there’s a happy ending to that too but I will tell you this though after
this happened all of my cousin’s kind of defected we were all supposed to be
doctors or attorneys that kind of thing so now as someone who’s a social worker
an elementary school teacher lots of humanities you know that kind of thing I
was the first and it was a really really difficult position to be in because my
parents left their countries so that their daughter could have a medical a
great medical education and then to say well I wanted to have a poetry education
was just not really even on their radar at all not even on the radar of their
radar you know that kind of thing I think that’s a good place to end so
thank you so so much

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