Poet Of The Week

Michael Chang

     September 20–26, 2021

A Brooklyn Poets fellow, Michael Chang is the author of several collections of poetry, including Drakkar Noir (winner of the Bateau Press BOOM Chapbook Contest), Chinatown Romeo (Ursus Americanus Press, 2021) and Boyfriend Perspective (Really Serious Literature, 2021). They have been tapped to edit Lambda Literary’s Emerge anthology, and their poems have been nominated for the Best New Poets, Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize anthologies. In 2021, they were awarded the Poetry Project’s prestigious Brannan Prize. On Wednesday, September 29, Chang will read for the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series along with Carlie Hoffman and Adrian Matejka.

LOW-KEY HIT OF THE SUMMER

 

The best & worst in New Yorkers comes out whenever anybody asks What train goes to Times Square?

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Poets love to court sleep (what is sleep)

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We haven’t forgotten what color the “flesh” crayon is

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U bulge profanely

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A smooth oblong

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Glans like a merman’s

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Sillage of fine fragrance, always noticed

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Drill life into me

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I want the #13

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No #13 but I can give u #12 & upcharge u

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We pay too much

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With inflation #13 is now #14

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I lie still, think of nothing

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Enough trouble on my own, I could suck u in

 

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I don’t talk about process but to me this is the quintessential New York poem.

What are you working on right now?

My book Boyfriend Perspective (Really Serious Literature, 2021) is out so I’ve been busy promoting that. I am also editing Lambda Literary’s 2021 Emerge anthology.

What’s a good day for you?

Denver omelette, iced coffee, no hangover.

What brought you to New York?

Who knows.

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?

Midtown is great. Quiet at night, easy access to places to eat and things to do. Other than a stint living downtown (Village), I’ve always lived here.

How often do you come to Brooklyn? What neighborhoods do you go to? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

Pretty often. Bushwick for gallery openings. Williamsburg to see friends.

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

Please find people who are genuinely supportive of your work. There are so many closet haters around. Just because somebody’s been doing poetry for twenty-plus years doesn’t mean they can’t be jealous of you. I guess I have some poetry frenemies, too … you have to watch out for those. I’m very grateful to a bunch of folx on Twitter.

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

Jason Koo! Great eye … very, very supportive of up-and-coming poets, especially Azn poets.

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

Many “established” poets have been very, very kind to me and are extremely supportive of my work, with blurbs, reviews and whatever else. Because of how I came into poetry, I don’t really have formal mentors, but happily serve in that capacity for others.

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

I finally got around to reading Qiu Miaojin’s Notes of a Crocodile, which is great (skip the actual crocodile parts).

As far as poems go, I’m always very, very impressed with blake levario’s work. Definitely someone to watch.

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

I keep trying to get into Sanmao’s Stories of the Sahara, but it’s kind of a slog. I feel similarly about Bruce Chatwin’s work.

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 tend to read poetry cover to cover, but for other genres I get impatient or tired of things and switch it up.

No, no planning. I am very driven by the moment. I like to come across things.

I prefer physical copies. No notes.

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

I’m bad at true ekphrasis … I’m not good at reacting to things or writing on demand (other than for Brooklyn Poets, of course!).

A few weeks ago the answer to this question would’ve been “sonnets” (loosely defined), but I’ve been writing shorter poems to use at readings. My recent output has mostly been shorter poems.

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

Café Mogador.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

Molasses Books, in Bushwick, where you can find my book Chinatown Romeo (Ursus Americanus Press, 2021).

The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, of course.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate SO DARK,

And what I DESIGN you NIGHTLY,

For every BUNNY me as good JACKRABBIT you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

MODEL-OFF-DUTY ROB

(DRAFT DODGER)

RED-CARPET-READY FATHER

(FIVE-YEAR-OLD JACK)

NEVER CRAVED LOVE

NEVER THOUGHT TO SIN

NEVER TEMPTED TO PEN

BUT BROOKLYN

BUT BIGGIE

Why Brooklyn?

There’s nothing else like it.