Poet Of The Week

Mia Kang

     June 5–11, 2017

Mia Kang is an Oregon-born, Texas-raised, Brooklyn-based writer, recently named a runner-up for the 2017 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, the PEN Poetry Series and Palimpsest, among other publications, and she is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets’ 2016 Catalina Páez and Seumas MacManus Award. Mia received her BA in art history from Hunter College, where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and she will begin her PhD in the history of art at Yale University in the fall. This past spring, she received a Brooklyn Poets Fellowship for study in Joe Pan’s Revisit & Revise manuscript workshop.

In Media Red

I stand at the mirror,
applying Rome. Rome never

the Rome I want, Rome enough
Rome of the thing

itself, my life raised
to its exponent, reddening

in the windchill, Rome under
the pale. I want

to call Rome out, to reflect
the light at such

and such a wavelength
like Rome, want to want

the length of wanting
without losing

for Rome avant

the coming guard,
warmth leaving

under a blue light.
The page reddens me

with knowledge
but still I apply

myself thus,
making Rome again

the wound
so easily pressed.

—“In Media Red” first appeared on the Margins, the online magazine of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This was actually the first poem I wrote after the 2016 presidential election. Though the poem deals with a personal experience, my project dances around and through Rome as a signifier for many things, power and desire among them. When is Rome not topical? That may be a question at the heart of my current project.

What are you working on right now?

Rome, Rome, and more Rome. Currently a chapbook called Aureliana, eventually to be a full-length manuscript tentatively entitled All Empires Must.

What’s a good day for you?

I like a weekday morning in early fall.

What brought you to Brooklyn?

A really terrible apartment off the Kosciuszko J.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I moved to Greenpoint last October. Quieter than Williamsburg, quainter than Bushwick. My neighborhood has all two of the things I require: a bookstore and a favorite coffee spot.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

I was just reminiscing about the good old Bedford crazies who used to run around Williamsburg. There was the guy who drove around with all his windows down, singing at the top of his lungs (I still see him from time to time), and there was the guy who looked like Jesus, who would walk down the middle of the road yelling excellent nuggets of wisdom.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

I am so antisocial this question makes me cringe.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

This one too.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

I don’t know that I’m willing to separate my poetry mentors from my general mentors. As an artist, I think I’ve been taught the most by a former ballet teacher, Alexandre Proia. My writing has been as strongly influenced by great thinkers I’ve encountered in other disciplines as by poets and writers. Since I started working on this project, those thinkers include my professors, especially Howard Singerman and Thierry de Duve, and the scholars I admire most, especially Lauren Berlant, Lee Edelman and Heather Love.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I recently really enjoyed Morgan Parker’s poem “White Beyoncé,” from her book There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. In it, white Beyoncé orders “vegan chicken salad w/ amenities.” !!!

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

Like anyone, I have a long list of these, but I try not to think about it too much. I like to happen upon things by near accident. I’m already too task-oriented.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I read everything at once. I don’t like to read digitally, though sometimes I am forced to for research. I don’t write in books. I don’t take notes when reading fiction or poetry, generally, but I do when working on a research project, whether creative or scholarly. Often I’m reading poetry as a kind of research, in which case I might note particular lines or ideas.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I’ve had it in mind for a while to write some poems that would attempt to be “word heaps,” which is how Roman Jakobson describes the speech of contiguity-disordered aphasics. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to accomplish this, and it’s an idea still so unformed that I remain suspicious of it—perhaps the project is a bad one.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I go to the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment, Odd Fox.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

I enjoy the waterfront parks in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. I like rivers. I don’t get the hype about oceans.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate America,
And what I burn you thrash too,
For every verb in me as good subjects you.

Why Brooklyn?

Real estate is real; is anything else?